The role of the store is evolving to surround the customer with better experiences
By Guy Courtin, Vice President Industry Strategy at Infor Retail
The funny thing about experiences is you never know how they’re going to be until you, um, experience them yourself. But as physical retail continues to fight for relevancy in an increasingly digital world, stores are becoming a testing ground for novel ways interact and engage with customers.
This past week, for instance, I went to my local grocery store and came across something I’d never seen in a supermarket before: a bar. I was used to seeing a Starbucks, bakery, sushi bar, and other prepared food stations – but never a full bar! This particular Kroger had all the usual products and services, but with an unexpected twist. Now the weary shopper can take a break from buying his organic bread, almond milk, Greek yogurt, Doritos, and pimento cheese, and treat himself to a nice, cold adult beverage. The bar, affectionately referred to as “Krobar” by Atlanta locals, serves cocktails, wine, and beer – with much of the selection coming from local breweries, vineyards, and distilleries.
They serve everything for a reasonable price and even provide generous samples to those who want to taste what’s on the store shelves (I almost drank a full beer in samples alone). And while you can’t walk around the rest of the store with a pint of local microbrew in your hand, the bar adds a welcome wrinkle to the otherwise mundane activity of grocery shopping. Had a tough day at work and need to pick up some milk on the way home? Treat yourself to a glass of white wine. Long day with the kids but still need to feed them? Unwind with an ale before you work through the grocery list. Kroger’s bar adds a welcome break from the monotony of grocery stores. It’s another example of how brick-and-mortar retailers can leverage their real estate to give customer experiences they can’t find online.
Nordstrom knows how to make a girl feel special
These types of experiences don’t have to be limited to a small portion of the store, either. Some retailers are rethinking stores altogether, and how to make the customer feel like the center of the shopping experience. To that end, Nordstrom has begun experimenting with a new store format that completely removes inventory from the equation. According to The Wall Street Journal, these stores will focus on services, bringing a variety of experiences to the end consumer.
The idea is for customers to visit Nordstrom Local stores to work with personal stylists and try on different combinations of clothing and accessories. They can also get manicures or have a drink at the in-store bar (alcohol seems to be a theme here) – and generally made to feel like a VIP. Nordstrom Local will take up a fraction of the square footage of traditional Nordstrom department store, and likely won’t be in a mall. But without inventory, the focus will be on surrounding the consumer with services. Nordstrom realizes that retail is changing, and the only way to survive is to find ways to hold on to and attract consumers to their brand. Nordstrom Local is one more way to elevate the customer and show them just how important they are. Nordstrom will be able to leverage its traditional Nordstrom stores and the supply chain to ensure the inventory is there whenever and wherever customers choose to buy it.
Treat your customers like the VIPs they are
Whether it’s Kroger and a bar or Nordstrom’s experimental store with no inventory, these two examples remind us of the importance of weaving experiences into the retail landscape. Consumers are no longer satisfied with simply securing product. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to take advantage of their physical assets and give these customers a better reason to visit stores. Not only does it make the customer feel special, but it’s another way to expose them to products and services they otherwise wouldn’t buy.
Tagged: brick-and-mortar, CX, department stores, Grocery, retail experience, store evolution