Can Physical Retail Be Saved?

Amazon is taking over. It’s not hear-say, it’s a fact. So, what does that mean for the fabric of the economy? Recently we’ve seen a big shift with retailers competing against every company in the world knowing that consumer time is limited, attention scarce and money consumable.

According to the Future of Physical Retail in a Post-Digital World panelists, retail stores need to press to engage with the consumers in unique ways. These entities should be laser-focused on staging experiences.

Here are the five realities of 2018 that retailers need to face:


  1. Retail as experiential entertainment

To really thrive, retailers need to create immersive experiences as destinations that people want to visit. Christiana Dimattesa, Director of DTC Retail Marketing at Under Armour, talked about the way they execute, relying on store associates to leverage a provided toolkit, tap into community folks to keep things fresh and maintain a $300 budget for each event.

The panelists talked about Samsung 837, which isn’t a retail store where devices are sold, but a technology playground and cultural destination where people can immerse themselves in the brand. Samsung believes that the investment garnering consumers’ attention through the whole purchasing life-cycle to drive repeat purchase.

  1. Human Connections

Megan Kohout, Vice President of E-Commerce at Kendra Scott, discussed the way shop associates customize their jewelry for a night out before departing from the store. This led to the creation of the Color Bar, an extremely personal way for customers to design a custom-piece of jewelry while sitting in the store.

One of Nordstrom’s new entities, Nordstrom Local, is a space that is luxurious with a personal stylist to greet the customer with a drink, a nail bar for pampering and time to spend with the stylist discussing style desires. While basking in the ambiance, garments are ferried from a local store to the destination to try on.

  1. Retail Employees of the Future – The New Brand Ambassadors

There was also a lot of talk around changing the expectations of employees. Greater recognition is needed for employees as an extension of the brand and an experience guide. Kendra Scott aligns with a contingency of College Ambassadors that help get the word out on college campuses across the nation. Store associates also receive “Caught You In a Kendra” cards.  These discount cards are used to randomly recognize people wearing Kendra Scott jewelry.

  1. One Brand

Everything the brand does needs to have a connected, consistent feel. This has caused companies to make major overhauls in their processes and how they approach business. Christiana Dimattesa commented on how they recently completed a reorganization of the direct consumer model to ensure that team members weren’t working in silos. They uncovered a vast number of efficiencies leading to updates that will have direct impacts on the consumer experience.

  1. The Next Frontier for Retail

Technology continues to change the game for how consumers experience retail with extended reality (XR) offerings. Some examples provided in the discussion included Lowe’s DIY Experiences in VR, L’Oréal’s Make-up Genius, and Carnival’s Ocean Medallion.  The group noted that there is no excuse to not know who your customers are any more in order to morph the experience to truly make an impact.

The big question is – will some form of physical retail experience continue to exist? After hearing perspectives in the session, only time will tell. One thing is for sure, the rules of the game in retail have changed. Perhaps Christiana Dimattesa put it best: “Consumers are looking to ride the rollercoaster and retailers want them to stop at the gift shop on the way out.”

For some additional insights on our POV around the future of retail, check out our Retail Digital Strength Index report.