The modern consumer wants a frictionless shopping journey. Retail brands are feeling the pressure from consumers to make the purchasing process more convenient and are coming up with new and innovative ways to create easy, efficient ways of shopping. Melissa Gonzalez, the founder and CEO of The Lionesque Group, an organization that produces pop-up retail experiences, gave some insight into how the retail industry can navigate and incorporate the digital world into their business practices successfully.
Jeff Fromm: What is a top consideration for any retail brand feeling the impact of Amazon’s market strength?
Melissa Gonzalez: Keep in mind what differentiates your brand and your unique value proposition. Amazon is king at access and distribution, but what gives their brand its moat is that it’s built very differently than brands that focus on lifestyle, storytelling, authenticity and service. Focus on building community around your brand, invest in content, be the expert authority in what you are selling and deliver an overall experience.
Fromm: Tell me more about your theory on unified commerce and how this integrates different layers of retail strategy?
Gonzalez: More and more consumers expect a seamless experience regardless of what channel they are interacting on. It is crucial that departments and distribution channels are unified. Merchandising needs to be in-step with marketing, marketing and tech need to be aligned, and online-offline lines need to be connected. Customers want the option to do it all on-demand to meet their needs at that particular moment.
Fromm: What are some new technology platforms that can help bridge online sales with brick-and-mortar distribution models?
Gonzalez: Ordering online and picking the item up in-store (or at a locker) has definitely become more popular. Consumers want to know something will be in-stock and ready for them before making the effort to travel somewhere, many brands build this in-house or they use outside partners like Curbside. Chat is also becoming more popular, especially in the beauty category or other high consideration categories where consumers may need their questions answered in real time without having to wait for a store associate. Often powered by companies like Predict Spring and IQ Metrix, endless aisle shopping is also becoming more popular as brands are getting more savvy about how they utilize floor space in a more curated way, but don’t want to limit full catalog access to consumers. M.Gemi, for example, uses Predict Spring. If a customer comes in and tries on numerous styles, M.Gemi captures it and that information is stored for the customer for the next time they shop online.
Fromm: What’s a pop-up and how has it evolved? How will it impact emerging retail trends?
Gonzalez: A pop-up has evolved to many definitions: it can be mobile, kiosk, a wall. Pop-ups are well-aligned to the evolving retail trends because they allow for flexibility, testing and lower capital commitment. Instead of making ten-year bets, brands and retailers can focus on targeted goals and design concepts that help them test and meet those goals. Over time we have seen store footprints shrink, pop-up lease terms (aka license agreements) lengthen in duration and the strategies get more experimental.
Fromm: As malls across the country are shuttering, how can retailers find opportune locations to connect with consumers? Can technology help?
Gonzalez: Many malls that are shuttering are in tertiary markets and brands are getting more targeted about where they plan their physical footprints. Pop-ups help because they can make long-term commitments in higher volume markets and invest in more temporary strategies for highly seasonal locations or those with more concentrated markets. Technology helps as a point of data collection, so brands are positioned to constantly learn about a particular demographic. It also allows for more creative use of physical spaces, perhaps with shoppable walls, service-oriented counters like those powered by Happy Returns or Hemster.