adidas stores uk How Stores Are Changing the Way You Shop
When you walk into the Madison Avenue Bonobos, don’t expect to walk out with anything.
Sure, you can try on a pair of pants, or about a dozen different gingham work shirts, but when you pick your favorite, there’s no cashier to ring up your purchase, no line to stand in, nor shopping bags to haul it home.
Instead, Joshua Jones you call him Josh swipes your card on his iPad and offers you a bottle of Perrier “for the road.” If you’re not in a rush, he’ll help you rank Jessica Alba movies, or chat about your upcoming vacation. Within a few days, your clothes will arrive at home, shipped from a warehouse in Massachusetts.
Josh isn’t a sales associate. He’s what the upstart menswear company deems a “guide.” He knows the intricacies of menswear intimately (style, fit, comfort), and has a client book of regulars who trust his taste. On a recent weekday afternoon, he convinced Phil, a new customer, to try on a pair of olive trousers he ended up buying. After Phil rushed out the door to make a business meeting, Josh made a mental note to follow up with him by email to make sure there’s no buyer’s remorse.
“I make it easy for them,” Josh says. “People say all the time, ‘I hate shopping. You made this enjoyable.’ ”
Josh doesn’t work on commission. When he hands you that sparkling water, remembers your kid’s name, or waves to you through the store window, it feels sincere. At past retail jobs, employers encouraged him to upsell constantly, and to adhere to strict styling guidelines. Here, things are a little different.
Bonobos is a newcomer to the brick and mortar game and is betting on a new trend called “experience shopping,” a catchall term that has come to define physical spaces that seek an emotional connection with their customers, and a relationship that goes beyond a fitting room handoff and debit card swipe.
As industry giants move their operations online, shuttering stores and shedding thousands of employees, Bonobos and other brands that offer experience shopping are taking the opposite approach. The company started as an e commerce men’s pants store in 2007 and branched into physical spaces five years later, adding suits, dress shirts, and other clothes that cost about the same as those at any retailer that targets the upper middle class. But while a dress shirt at Bonobos will run you about $98, just like a shirt at J. Crew, the retail climate for those two brands has been radically different. This year, as J. Crew, loaded with debt, announced closings and staff layoffs, Bonobos announced a string of new stores. and about 300 guides.
For Josh, this job isn’t just a paycheck or a placeholder for more meaningful work. At 25 years old, he wants to manage his own brand one day. When he first interviewed at Bonobos, the general manager who hired him asked about his five year plan.
“I was kind of shocked,” Josh recalls. “And then he said, ‘I want to help you get there.'”
Josh’s story might seem a little strange. Eight years after the recession, charismatic college graduates aren’t supposed to be working in retail and they’re definitely not supposed to like working in retail.
And yet, as these jobs teeter on the brink of what pundits have dubbed the “retail apocalypse,” Josh and a fleet of new, energetic employees are taking up the fight.
Together, they’re challenging everything you think you know about shopping.
courtesy of NikeOn the second floor of Nike Miami, the Nike+ Basketball Trial Zone spans 285 square feet with an adjustable hoop. Consumers are able to shoot hoops, test basketball shoes and do custom drills with the guidance of in store certified store athletes.
It no secret that the rise of e commerce has left a stain on traditional retail. In the past year alone, a laundry list of once thriving shopping mall staples like Payless, Toys “R” Us, and Wet Seal have led for bankruptcy. Other iconic brands that shaped fashion in the ’90s and ’00s, like American Apparel and the Limited, have shut down in store operations for good. Penney led to the loss of more than 70,000 jobs, according to the outplacement firm Challenger Gray Christmas.
Delivery from Amazon Prime can now fetch your coffee beans, tampons, dog treats, printer ink, Ziploc bags, daily vitamins, and tube socks in a matter of days, if not hours and can be scheduled on a self reliant loop. If you live in a major metropolitan area, FreshDirect, Boxed, and Seamless will gladly handle your grocery, toiletry, and takeout needs. And companies like Netflix and Spotify provide endless, on demand entertainment. So why would you stand in an exceedingly long line, spar with a quick tempered cashier, or wander aimlessly around a megastore if you no longer have to?
For physical retailers, it’s not enough to have things anymore, experts say. Now you need an experience a convenience, activity, or ambiance to rope people in.
“There’s been a lot of fear that retail is on the decline,” says Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist. “What’s happening instead is a shift. People are still going into the brick and mortar stores that feel good to be in, and where you can expect to find a person to help you navigate a complicated product space.”
Retailers that are thriving, Chamberlain says, have learned the not so secret formula for winning over an audience spoiled for choice: a strong e commerce presence to snag online sales, paired with an in store experience to keep them coming back.
You may have noticed what’s called the “omni channel strategy” trickling into the places you already shop. Sportswear giants Adidas and Nike have recently unveiled massive, immersive retail experiences, with basketball courts, treadmills, and soccer practice zones. Outdoor activewear brand REI has outfitted stores with rock climbing walls and has added mobile offerings like hiking trail apps and instructional videos for the gear it sells. Last year, as competitors’ sales dipped, REI announced record revenues.
Astrid Stawiarz Getty Images for SephoraA Sephora cast member demonstrates the “Virtual Artist” makeup app at Sephora 34th Street Store Grand Opening on March 30, 2017 in New York City.
At Sephora, a makeup behemoth that has long embraced experience shopping, stores function like massive test labs, where customers (“clients”) try on hundreds of makeup and skin care brands, and consultants (“cast members”) mosey around to demonstrate as needed. Employees don’t need a ton of beauty expertise to work at Sephora, but they do need some digital fluency enough to school customers in its expanding range of digital tools.
“We know the lines are blurring,” says Karalyn Smith, senior vice president of human resources at Sephora. “We’re embracing every way the client wants to interact with us, and equipping our cast members in the store to be a part of that.”
Most important, Smith says, Sephora’s employees need to be emotionally intelligent and know how to create a “human experience” in this increasingly digital space.
For new entrants to the retail space, baking experience shopping into a business plan is a no brainer.
Astrid Stawiarz WireImage/Getty ImagesNeil Blumenthal shows Warby Parker optical frames at the Warby Parker holiday spectacle bazaar leftover launch on November 29, 2011 in New York City.
Many of them, like clothing retailer Everlane and prescription glasses company Warby Parker, opened physical locations after growing a customer base online first. Their physical stores share a renewed faith in that warm and fuzzy, the customer is always right mentality that Mom and Pop figured out ages ago. And they’re making sure every hire you interact with reflects that.
“Roles are changing,” says Jane Greenthal, a senior design strategist focused on the retail industry at the design and consulting firm Gensler. “It’s a different skill set. Employees aren’t just there to stock merchandise; they’re building relationships.”