A Toyota showroom in the busiest block of the Champs Elysées; Apple, Sony and Blackberry stores taking over shopping malls and main arteries in big cities worldwide; pop-up stores that materialize, leave a trail and disappear. By the end of the 90s, Disney, Nike and even the NBA already knew what was coming. These pioneers realized that retail could benefit their brands well beyond just selling products.
The first time I saw the Apple store inside the Aventura shopping mall in South Florida, it dawned on me that Apple was not paying prime retail space to sell computers, ipods or telephones, though actual buyers would stand in line for hours from day one. Apple was paying to have a highly visible window on a strategic location often visited by every opinion leader in Latin America. In less than a decade after incorporating this strategy to their marketing mix, Apple has spread a network of over 250 stores (276 to be exact, by October 2009) with direct impact on millions of consumers that walk past their imposing storefronts every single day. (It doesn’t require rocket science to see that the results are way better than a full-page ad in the highest circulation newspaper in the world or that the cost per impact is relatively much lower). And this is not all. These millions of consumers represent the captive audience for sales associates (or as Apple calls them, concierge) whose job is to replace traditional body copy with qualified ambassador discourse that enwraps listeners in overwhelming argumentation building the cult of the brand even further.
Another great example is that of the NESPRESSO stores, Nestlé’s premium coffee and coffee makers brand. The talent of marketing experts, designers and architects come together to transform coffee pods into spectacular store windows and exhibits, enticing the least sophisticated of consumers to spend hundreds of dollars for a coffee maker and subscribe to a lifelong commitment to the select coffee. Because if I can carry home and relive that splendid Saks Fifth Avenue experience…it’s well worth it.
With Kodak, we realized that the counter of the 80s, when photography went from the dark room to the 1-hour lab, was not the solution for the digital era; we realized that the photographic kiosks and their great technology were ready, but the consumer had not found in these sort of ATMs a friendly space to connect to their photos. So we reinvented the photo specialty store. We offered each consumer a creative space according to their needs and surrounded them with ideas to transfer those Kodak moments captured in their memory cards to paper in its infinite versions. The experiment is certainly paying off with sustained monthly sales increase for over a year now, without taking into consideration the return for the brand seeing the Kodak yellow shining bright once again.
It’s not about opening stores to increase sales; it’s about realizing that shopping malls are the entertainment parks of the future. That consumers can now purchase and compare at the touch of a computer key, that they will always have free time, and that during those visits to consumer temples if the offer is valid, price becomes irrelevant.
These brands know that boardwalk strollers are not there to shop; they are there for leisure, and when consumers decide to enjoy their free time, nothing will distract them, if I may use the paradox. In moments like these, even a chocolate bar, commoditized at Wal-Mart to the very last cent, becomes priceless. If you don’t believe me, dear reader, think for a moment how much you paid for a soda last time you stopped at a movie theater concession.
If music in the 80s already had its Virgin MegaStore, can you imagine how this industry could benefit from an interactive store filled with downloading stations and a relaxing, trendy lounge atmosphere?
Just imagine the power of a brand that enwraps the consumer 360º without any filters whatsoever, and you will soon realize why retail is today, more than ever before, a strategic move to build brands.
If you are still not convinced, take literally 1 minute and 48 seconds to see these musical stairs case
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