industryNot long ago, conventional wisdom had it that online shopping would soon consign vast swaths of traditional retail stores to the scrap heap of history. But the old guard is fighting back, and it is doing so by turning what’s been perceived as a fatal flaw—people needing to schlep to their locations—into a selling point.
Stephen Jay, head of retail consultancy Fitch, is one of a number of industry experts who believe 2014 could herald the start of a comeback for brick-and-mortar retailers, driven in large part by their increasing tendency to peddle experiences rather than stuff.
“For retailers, the hard sell is becoming less important than getting across brand values and providing something distinctive and fun,” Jay says. The idea is that soon we could find ourselves going to Macy’s for a craft workshop or JCPenney for a yoga session, very often leaving the stores empty-handed but brimming with brand loyalty.
“As more transactions occur online, the high street will evolve into a place for entertainment, learning and just hanging out,” says Ron Magliocco, global head of shopper marketing at ad agency JWT. For Magliocco, online retail, for all its benefits, is missing a vital component. “Humans,” he says, “need to interact with other humans.”
Interaction, indeed, has become a cherished buzzword in the retail industry. Already some stores are emulating Apple’s Genius Bars, the chummy support stations that are the beating heart of Apple emporia. Target, for one, is rolling out Beauty Concierges, consultants who promise to provide impartial advice rather than sales pitches. Similarly, J. Crew now has Very Personal Stylists, who will open the store early or stay late “to work around your schedule.” How nice.
This be-our-guest approach has taken root across a variety of institutions. In some banks, financial advisers roam chill-out-style lounges, while revamped 7-Eleven stores have installed café seating, free Wi-Fi and televisions. Last year, Radio Shack made hospitality the bedrock of its new…(Read Full Article Here)