It’s a story as old as time, that we’ve all heard repeatedly: Basically, as e-commerce purchases soar, it has been reported again and again that brick-and-mortar stores are dying.
Of course, e-tail and mobile platforms will not lead to the total elimination of retail outposts – a majority of consumers will still shop in-store in the future – but they will fundamentally alter the way physical stores operate. After all, if consumers can simply and seamlessly tap, swipe, or speak through their devices to make a purchase or return, what real need will they have to schlep to a store?
To survive and thrive, brick-and-mortar brands will need (and are already starting) to retail-tain: that is, 1) retain customers as recurring visitors to their stores and 2) entertain consumers as a means of enticing them to visit.
One standout way to retail-tain? Tap into consumers’ fundamental, unrelenting desire for status. Below are trends (that currently and will continue to delight) that retail brands are creatively harnessing to help their customers assert their worth.
1. LIMITED LOCATION – sell something in one location, at one time, to generate buzz
One widely adopted, tried-and-true strategy for encouraging retail visits has been to allow certain products to only be purchased in a few locations. Those who do purchase these less-accessible items gain the cachet of exclusivity associated with them. Brands are reworking this “LIMITED LOCATION” technique in new ways to ensure that customers are rewarded for trekking to stores.
In April, Wal-Mart stopped just short of bribery when they introduced discounts reserved for online shoppers who pick up in-store. And in March, visitors to the Adidas Knit For You pop-up shop in Germany were given the exclusive opportunity to design and create their one-of-a-kind, custom sweaters – which were hand-knit and available for pickup within four hours.
2. STATUS TESTS – reward the worthy
Another way to both reward customers for interacting with your brand in-person and provide an entertaining experience? Give them challenges that allow them to prove their worth and, of course, have fun!
Take a cue from Nike: After releasing limited-edition sneakers in collaboration with artist Tom Sachs in June, the athletic brand opened Space Camp, a series of boot camp-style challenges. Only participants who successfully completed Space Camp could purchase the sneakers. Reebok also challenges customers at their Reebok FIT store and exercise space, which opened in July, in Poland; after completing workouts, customers can receive a special currency to fund up to 25% of their Reebok apparel purchases.
3. STATUS SKILLS – skills are status symbols
How else can brands entice customers to visit their physical locations and retail-tain them? We’re seeing a crop of companies holding classes in their retail spaces – enabling consumers to walk away with STATUS SKILLS in addition to merchandise.
Sephora, for instance, offered on-site courses as part of their TIP workshop program when they opened their flagship New York-based store in March. Department store Selfridges in the UK also positioned themselves as educators when they offered in-store homemaking workshops, from March until June of this year. And in May, Apple kicked off their Today at Apple program to offer free classes on a range of topics (including coding, design and photography) at all of their retail locations around the world.
Brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead, even for younger generations - after all, 67% of Gen-Z consumers shop in-store regularly, versus the 22% who shop online regularly. To engage with consumers more deeply, it’s essential that the stores they visit will continue to retail-tain them – and a great way to do that is through addressing and meeting their desire for status.
By Lisa Feierstein, Digital Content at Trendwatching
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