- This article was previously posted in Dutch on FashionUnited -
As 2019 kicked in, so did retail’s new reality on real-estate. Dutch media revealed that in large parts of the country, rental prices of retail units are in a nosedive. Except for the five largest cities. There, rental prices are skyrocketing. To total frustration of the local shopkeepers, since they are already dealing with other suffocating operational costs. This is also happening in the UK, the US and other parts of the world.Location, location, has been the longstanding universal adagio in retail. But how dependent are you of a location, if you can be a destination on your own?
Destination: the extra special place beyond the ordinary
Sounding like an off-the-track hotspot in your travel guide? Actually, that is exactly what the modern conshuman- the human behind the consumer- is looking for. Always on a conscious quest for places where something extraordinary is happening. Willing to drive the extra mile for.
For decades we have marched the malls for shopping and some fun. Nothing handier than all the major stores at one spot. That was before the Amazon era. Today more and more errands are run online. In real life, we rather seek out hot spots with great stories and to get an extraordinary experience. Places where we get surprised, amazed or even transformed. And, if possible, get our Instagram account exploding. But how to become the hottest destination?
First of all: know why they would knock at your door
Just buying stuff, is no longer a prime reason. People can already do that online, from anywhere, at any time. So why would they bother to set foot on your doorstep? You have to know their deeper urges for visiting your store. Are they purely entering for the Convenience of saving time, money or efforts? Or do they look for an -enriching- Experience to spend their time, money or attention? Knowing the answer helps you to position your business in a way, that tells your brand story effectively and lucratively. How frustrating would it be when people flock your place to just hang around, while your business is actually set up to support a smooth throughput. Think of the convenience at Subway where you just get in and out for a quick bite. While on the other hand, the chef from a Michelin star restaurant, would get depressed when his guests would do the same. That would leave his tables empty for the remaining evening and his matching wine list -the margin booster- untouched. The golden market positioning starts with knowing the WHY. Same goes for retail.
The story behind the destination
Subsequently, it is vital to have your story clear, and ready to tell straightforward, yet captivating. Nearly all brands and entrepreneurs have a great story to conquer the hearts and minds of the customer. ‘Tony’s Chocolonely’ is a relatively new kid on the chocolate-makers block in the Netherlands. Their sweet success story reads like a superhero novel, who saves the chocolate industry from slavery.
As important as the storyitself, is the way you tell it. This determines whether it will become lucrative or not. Though, it takes a well performing medium to bring the story to life. This is essential – otherwise the story won’t stick.
Your store: the perfect medium to tell your story
So, what would be this medium in retail? The setting of your store, online and IRL! Providing endless chances to display a dashing look and feel, routing and sensory inducements. Although Customer Experience gets a lot of executive attention, it is shocking how often I come across settings that are at war with the story. Being confronted with a dying plantin your Family Doctor’soffice, is not benefiting your trust in a healthy recovery. And what about beauty brands trying to sell you pure natural products, in a setting decorated with plastic cherry blossom or orchids. The art of effective storytelling is all about playing with the customers’ senses and imagination. In an authentic and natural way. Meaning, using plants that are actually cared for. A striking story is all about the details.
The story becomes a world on its own
Disney, Lego and American Girl. Kids’ brands with grown-up revenue. Primary examples of dream destinations. All of them use appealing stories as a starting point to launch movies, games and books (besides their original products). Through these media, people became acquainted with, and captivated by it. Nothing better than creating a real world, where the story comes to life. Granting juniors’ wish to become that action hero or movie princess. All in exquisite settings and stocked with merchandise. From all over the world people travel to these destinations. Just to dip a lot of time, attention and money into this story-turned-dream world.
Fashion brands and retailers can learn a lot from this approach. Famous for their wonderousstories, scenic atmospheres and enchanting collections on the catwalk. But once in the store, the magic is gone. Maybe a little bit splashed on a screen or a catalogue on a coffee table, but that’s about it. Of course, it takes a lot of effort to keep up with the seasonal catwalk craze. To redo your store multiple times a year. But for brands claiming to be an experience, it is a necessity. Story - New York’s revolutionary concept store – came up with their modular store refurbishing plan to accommodate seasonal cycles. And staying true to their name; selling the story of the season, wrapped in an experience.
Making our way towards destinations
As stated before, when going out, Conshumans are not interested in buying stuff. There is plenty opportunity for them to do this online. The places they visit, have to be worthwhile. Buying the related and desired products will follow automatically.
10 Corso Como
That is exactly what is happening at 10 Corso Como. Against all mainstream, they choose to locate their original store in Milan far away from the conventional shopping areas. Instead of turning into a bleak place, it turned out to be an oasis in nomansland, away from the hussle, fuzz and distraction. With its overhanging garden, gallery, hotel, bistro, terrace and store, it became an outstanding paradise for art- and design lovers. You can wander, mingle, eat and enjoy. And against all odds, they’ve opened their latest store in an abandoned part of New York. Uplifting the whole block with its presence. Turning the whole neighborhood into a destination.
The opposite choice to 10 Corso Como, is made by yoga lifestyle brand ‘Alo’. With their studio-to-street story, they opted for a lively and buzzing neighborhood. Bringing moments of peace in busy lives. Behind the closed doors of their studio, they provide a sanctuary. An experience with a themed shop, yoga classes, health bar, office spaces and lifestyle events.
Both brands, although seemingly opposite in their location of choice, are one in offering a customer retreat, where attention is paid to every detail, and activities are staged to make their story come to life. As true destinations they are not defined by their location, but by the story they tell.
This is a contribution by Melvin van Tholl, Customer Experience Architect at BLOODY BELIEVERS. The creative-strategic agency with unconventional expertise in reimagining and building customer experience-driven solutions for businesses of the new era. Based in Amsterdam, with digital and physical availability around the world. In this series of expert contributions on FashionUnited he takes you on a journey through the upcoming world of the conshuman. Sharing valuable insights and helping you to get your business on top of the customer experience.