Reinventing retail

The futures of traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores are in danger. Every few days there’s another high street brand announcing a profit warning or store cuts due to a fall in sales.

We’ve already bid farewell to the likes of Woolworths, ToysRus and BHS - as customers become more comfortable satisfying their consumer needs online. Debenhams is just the latest big name to face a looming axe as customers take their pounds elsewhere.

Too many retail stores feel like disorganised warehouses. Where goods are stored, not showcased. But. Among all the dire, doomsday warnings that physical retail is dead, there are still brands that have faith in what a physical retail environment can offer. Brands that understand why, with great Customer Experience at its core, there is still very much a place for physical interaction.

There’s no denying that this shift from in-store to online has affected some sectors more than others. Supermarkets, for example, still experience most of their sales in-store – with Aldi becoming a true contender to the ‘Big Four’ without offering its full range of products online. But shine a light on any form of media and we see the names of strugglers begin to stack up: think Zavvi, Comet and Blockbuster. HMV is teetering on the edge of administration for the second time in six years. All of these have fallen/are falling to the surge of online competitors to their business. (Yes, I’m looking at you Amazon and Netflix.)

Through all the gloomy doom, there are brands that still see success on the high street. They are the ones that invest heavily in providing a great Customer Experience in-store. A shining example of this is Nike’s recent flagship store which they have just opened in New York. It’s a 55,000 square foot experiential behemoth of sport retail.

They’ve literally thought of everything that any trainer, sport or health fanatic could want, and they’ve encapsulated it all in one store. It’s a one-stop shop for all your Nike needs, delivered in a way that makes the experience unique for each customer. It’s totally immersive. Nike is focusing on what we as consumers want: ease, convenience and brand narrative.

Within one store, Nike has created an environment suitable for people looking to learn, and people who are time poor. Included below is a hypothetical scenario relating to the width of their offering and how they have tailored the retail experiences to the masses:  

Consumer 1 – New to running, no clue on best shoe to buy.

Nike have created a treadmill complete with a wall of screens to simulate outdoor runs. Customers can complete runs on these treadmills to understand which shoe is best for them before purchasing. All delivered in their 1-2-1 session with a Nike specialist.

Consumer 2 – Experienced runner, they know what shoe they want but they're not sure on colour/style.

Instead of fighting through crowds to get to the wall of shoes (the biggest display of Nike shoes in the world), they can reserve all of the shoes which they’d like to try on through an app. They are then sent a notification when their locker is ready in the “Speed Shop”. They can then go in, find their locker and all the shoes will be in there, in their size, ready to try on. Once they’ve decided, they confirm their selection via the app and the order is processed. No standing in line to pay needed.

And this is only one example. There’s also a half-court basketball court; a shoe bar where you can customise shoes to your personal taste; and a dedicated area where you can learn all about the shoe that you’re about to buy and how it was designed.

In my opinion, they’ve successfully demonstrated what we as consumers need to break the monotony of the high-street. This is the sort of experience that will get us through their doors instead of taking our business online. Jean-Pierre van Tiel (Retail Week) hit the nail on the head when he said:

“The Holy Grail for bricks-and-mortar retailers is in turning their stores into the real-world equivalent of Instagram.”

That’s exactly what we want, and that’s exactly what Nike has delivered. It’s a theatre of experiences, where everything inches you closer to that point of purchase. With plans to roll out the best performing elements from this flagship worldwide, keep your eyes out for something similar in a Nike store near you.

Post by

Richard Canueto-Cook