The annual NRF conference in New York City — Retail’s “Big Show” — was a chance to connect with retailers, startups and industry visionaries to reflect on the year just gone. And with the holiday shopping season in the rearview mirror, it’s time we shift focus to the opportunities ahead.
While much of modern retail is about managing constant change, one thing that remains high on the agenda for retail is the crucial role stores play in driving engagement and sales. In a city where everything is famously bigger and better, retailers are reinventing how they create engaging customer experiences to meet what shoppers are looking for – and expect – from retail stores.
And in New York, there are many great examples delivering just that. For instance, the hype and exclusivity built up around Queens born brand Aimé Leon Dore, can be felt before you even walk into the store. With a waitlist just to enter, customers are prepared to wait between 15 minutes on weekdays or up to two hours on the weekend.
Tucked behind the velvet green curtain lies, the world of ALD, with moody lighting, wood panelling, Persian rugs, and art that pays a homage to New York, 90s hip-hop and sports. The brand has been able to grow its community by capturing the hearts of streetwear aficionados and onlookers through collaborations with brand collaborations with the likes of New Balance and Porsche. What’s more, the newly renovated, and exclusive space with a private sound room — only accessible to close friends and family — is home to “Sound”, a series of monthly DJ Sets.
Building connections with local communities
Another example of a company creating a store that emphasizes experiential elements and a focus on community, is Rivian. The electric vehicle manufacturer’s family-friendly, "Rivian Spaces," offers various fun areas for exploration, from a wall dedicated to the ins and outs of charging, to a map of where Rivian owners have traveled in their vehicles, and an area where customers can see customization options for their vehicles.
Armed with the right data analytics, retailers can better tailor their layouts, in-store services, pricing and product assortments to customers. Key to this is thinking creatively and innovatively about what the future retail store can be, seeing it as not just a place to purchase products but a multipurpose destination that offers a range of different experiences.