HOW RETAILERS CAN ADAPT
To avoid the retail graveyard and bankruptcy plague, companies are becoming innovative on and off-line. Take Boxed, an e-tailer who uses virtual reality to help consumers purchase bulk items for affordable prices. And Everlane, the retailer who focuses on product transparency. Both are solving the question that Chris Walton, CEO of Red Archer Retail + Omni Talk, sees as fundamental; Why will people still come to your store to shop?
Breaking free of legacy thinking, whether you're a brick-and-mortar or an e-commerce player, is vital to surviving retail Darwinism. Channelling branding towards community impact and the experiences created within physical spaces will differentiate retailers while serving as leverage over the omnipresent competitor, Amazon.
"Amazon has no idea how to run physical consumer experiences. They are trying to learn but they haven’t built up the muscle memory yet," says Walton during our Meet The Expert series.
WALMART + HUMANA?
As with all Amazon announcements, nobody missed that little one about healthcare earlier this year. While we still wait to see what that entails, Walmart, in a different kind of "me too" movement, is reportedly in talks to either acquire or partner closely with Humana. As one of the largest insurance companies in the US, with more than 13 million customers, and in particular a strong relationship with an aging demographic (one that dovetails nicely with Walmart's), it would help Walmart bolster its efforts for in-store clinics. Furthermore, with Humana's diverse portfolio of products and services, a partnership between the two giants could be transformative for healthcare delivery in this country.
The one catch? This acquisition ain't gonna come cheap.
EBAY SHIFTS PUBLIC PERCEPTION
Ebay is launching a rebranding strategy to reach mobile users who frequent social media. The "Wear It Your Way" campaign promotes eBay's style offerings and fashion deals, while giving users shopping access from Instagram via @eBayFashion.
The campaign intends to shift public perception of the company from a second hand bidding zone to a viable retail (and fashion) player. Its marketplace model has encountered some struggles to remain relevant amongst consumers as digital competitors Walmart, Target, and Amazon dominate the e-commerce sector.
To combat affordable private labels and emerging sites like The RealReal or ThredUp, over 80 percent of eBay's products are new or available for immediate purchase. Will the next steps in its quest to preserve retail longevity manifest itself in a digital-to-physical transition like its consignment counterparts?
QVC IS ALIVE AND WELL
TV viewership may be on a decline but for young beauty brands, QVC is the holy grail of exposure. The 32-year-old television shopping network is key in expanding reach through its hands-on model.
Much like YouTube, QVC's loyal followers enjoy expert product demonstrations. Its success in remaining relevant is attributed to not only a growing digital presence, but the storytelling and communication of product value to consumers. “Without your story and intrinsic value communicated, your product is just another product on the shelf,” says Mai Kang, Associate VP of Client Services at data analytics firm Fuel Cycle.
Its audience is unique; viewers are eager to discover new products. Users engage with beauty shows via Facebook, the QVC website, mobile app, AppleTV and Roku. As retail transitions to more experience-based, QVC's demonstration model could serve as a trusted product reviewing source for retailers.
INSTAGRAM SHIFTS PHYSICAL RETAIL
Instagram's new shoppable posts are the least of retailers' worries. The photo-sharing app has set a new standard for visual merchandising to turn physical bricks into social clicks.
In other words, stores now need to connect with customers through highly visual displays. Retailers like Story, the New York native concept store, reinvents its store layout every four to eight weeks to give consumers reason to visit the space and capture a visual experience through Instagram.
Pop-up shops, exhibitions, and visual installments are fueling the retail experience shift. These shareable moments increase foot traffic and impulse purchases, putting the value back into brick-and-mortar shopping.
THIS WEEK'S BRIGHT SPOT
GREATS, a start-up that sells Italian-made leather shoes, will open a store in New York this month, close to its competitors Adidas and Nike.
Despite the stark reality of the sneaker company Foot Locker, who is to shutter 100 stores, GREATS is a firm believer in the need for brick-and-mortar. Using its soon-to-open location as an experience driver, the retailer sees the value in a showroom-like space with artful displays, exclusive products, and regular community events. “There’s no better way to introduce a customer to what we’re about as a brand,” says Ryan Babenzien, GREATS' CEO.
Brick-and-mortar is not dead, and startups like GREATS are strategically rethinking physical retail for today's consumer.