By Nathaniel Mallon, Verada Retail
Coming out of nearly two years of economic uncertainty, the retail industry has certainly felt the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, 2022 has given these spaces the opportunity to bounce back in a significant way. People are looking forward to getting out and spending their hard-earned dollars. As a result, retailers are having to alter how they engage potential customers. With the rise of technology, the popularity of social media-based shopping, and an increased focus on experiential retail, store owners are competing with one another to bring traffic through their doors. A fundamental part of this shift includes identifying strategic locations that can be re-designed with more amenities to suit the needs of modern-day shoppers.
Lighting, Mirrors, and Creative Amenities
While retailers are always interested in making a sale, generating sales from new customers is also a top priority. One way to attract new shoppers is to utilize experiential retail to create a more elevated shopping experience. Today’s retailers are making their physical spaces more comfortable with increased seating and designated lounging areas while adding an element of adventure with smart mirrors and customizable dressing room lighting. These amenities may seem like simple adjustments but can heighten the shopping experience. In turn, customers are spending more time and money in stores.
Creative Retail Display Ideas
In addition to modifying the ambiance in their locations, retailers are incorporating creative retail display ideas to help improve the customer experience and further meet today’s demand for experiential shopping. These displays can vary dramatically based on the service provided by the retailer and can be modified to create a unique customer experience. Retail displays often include an interactive component that allows customers to engage with real-time information, such as directions to a specific location in a clothing store or access to the most up-to-date menu in a trendy restaurant. Companies are taking an even more creative approach by designing customized retail displays unique to their location. For example, H&M installed an interactive mirror that allows customers to discuss fashion tips or take a selfie. It’s all about creating an interactive and memorable experience.
Evolving the In-Store Experience
Not all amenities are visible to the naked eye, however. Some of these adjustments are made behind the scenes. This may involve shifting the physical location of a store to cater to certain customers or designing stores to better serve consumer preferences.
Melissa Gonzalez, a retail strategist and CEO of The Lionesque Group, has this to say about the future of experiential shopping: “Capital allocation will have a tiered process where flagship destinations will exist in locales where there is evidence that a physical presence is justified or critical 12 months a year. Flagship locations will be complemented with [a] smaller format, specialty locations anchored around a specific purpose or localized effort. Partnering with department stores will also continue to be reimagined as they restructure and reposition [themselves] as collaborative marketplaces, and there will be a deeper dedication to pop-in-shop retail.”
Another way retailers hope to entice consumers into spending more time – and money – in their locations is by adding outdoor spaces. This might involve providing rooftop access, adding a balcony, or bringing natural elements into the store’s design. For many shoppers, this is a welcome change from traditional spaces’ fluorescent lighting and industrial layout.
Connecting the Store with Social Media Engagement
On top of this, retailers are now more in tune with merging their brands’ digital and physical presence. If an item is gaining traction on social media sites like Instagram or TikTok, shoppers will likely see it featured on some primary display in the store. All of this is an attempt to provide greater convenience and efficiency while improving the overall shopping experience for consumers.
Putting the Personal in Personal Shopping
While many people are excited to return to physical storefronts, others are taking a more cautious approach. During the pandemic, many stores offered curbside pickup and personal shopping for customers who felt safer being socially distanced from others. These services have extended beyond health and safety to provide consumers with increased efficiency and more time to spend on other activities.
Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing and author of Irrational Loyalty: Building a Brand That Thrives in Turbulent Times, predicts small businesses will continue to utilize this personal touch well into the future. “This was a trend we were starting to see pre-COVID, and the pandemic has accelerated the process of adoption,” she says. “Local and small retailers are especially well suited to these kinds of personalized experiences and are leading the charge in this category.”
Fueling the In-Store Crowds
While the initiatives mentioned above are larger scale, attracting shoppers can be as simple as providing food and beverages on the premises. For a shorter-term solution, some retailers are turning to pop-up collaborations with local food and beverage vendors. But, overwhelmingly, retailers have decided to align themselves with one of the world’s most popular drinks: coffee.
Coffee bars have become a popular addition to many retail establishments to re-energize shoppers. Ollie Simon, a manager at Allpress Coffee Roasters, agrees that adding coffee bars to retail spaces is undeniably positive. “I think online shopping is so prominent these days that coffee bars in shops are a way to add a little bit more of an experience rather than solely a product-focused journey,” he explains. “It can help slow things down, remove barriers, create conversations, and give stores an opportunity to engage with customers. You’re not going to go into a clothing store for coffee. But if you go in there, it might mean you spend five minutes longer and look at three more items – and maybe one of those [looks results in] a purchase.”
Amenities on the Rise
From coffee bars and customized lighting to rooftop access and personal shopping, retail spaces are adding a wide variety of modern amenities to cater to prospective customers. With increasing pressure from online competitors, retail stores have been compelled to find creative ways to keep their sales edge. As the industry progresses, retail spaces will likely need to focus even more on identifying theperfect retail space for their business, one that enables them to incorporate unique amenities to draw in customers.