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Retail must reinvent itself amid ‘always-on’ trend

New York -- As technology transforms multichannel retail into hyper-channel, “always-on” retailing, chains must emotionally connect with consumers as never before, according to Joseph Bona. Bona, president of branded environments for New York City-based brand agency/retail design firm CBX, is one of the featured speakers at Chain Store Age’s upcoming 50th annual SPECS conference,  March 9 -12, Grapevine, Texas.

“Physical stores can no longer be what they used to be — namely, distributors of other people’s goods at reasonable prices in convenient locations,” said Bona, during a speech at EuroShop, the global trade fair held every four years in Dusseldorf, Germany. “They must offer sights, sounds, tastes, touch, emotion — 3D experiences that 2D can’t achieve. When your customers look at Yelp! or Google Reviews, you want them to read about how your in-store experience was entertaining and inspiring. You want them to read about how going to your store is always a special treat.”

Bona’s presentation —“Format Reinvention: the Changing Face of Retail” — highlighted the need for retailers to further rethink the function of their brick-and-mortar stores. Today’s “always on” environment doesn’t only mean that people can buy whatever they want using their phones and tablets—it also means they can use GPS- and cloud-enabled tools to find the very best retail and dining experiences available to them, wherever they happen to be in the world, he said.

Emotion plus theatrics equals experience.

“Storytelling ability, in particular, helps you create engaging experiences, and the memory of those experiences can inspire consumers by adding excitement and drama to routine transactions,” Bona said.  “Ultimately, this is what energizes brand culture and drives long-term customer loyalty, even in a world perpetually driven to digital distraction.”

Overall, Bona said, retailers need to push the envelope and keep asking one basic question: “How do you maintain a pillar of affection and human touch while there’s a simultaneous shift to increasing human interaction with technology?”

“On a strategic level, we think the answer is fairly simple: Make your customer experience second-to-none in authenticity and relevance,” he said. “Execution is all about thoroughly understanding who your customer is, and what your customer wants and needs from a retail experience.”

© 2014