Retailers at Shoptalk Focus on Innovative Experiences and the Move from Digital to Physical

Thousands of retailers hit the Las Vegas strip last week for Shoptalk’s second annual retail conference. Shoptalk is the perfect combination of inspiring keynotes, impressive retailer interviews with the likes of leaders from Target, Lowes, Rebecca Minkoff, Sephora, and many others, and the latest in retail technology from the big-name giants down to incredibly innovative startups.

While my head is still spinning from all the great content, if I had to choose one word to describe the theme on everyone’s lips, it would be experience”. Of the 5,500 attendees, it would appear every single person is focused on how to deliver amazing experiences to consumers in an ever-changing retail landscape.

There also seemed to be a consensus that the heart of a truly exceptional customer experience is the brick-and-mortar store. (Yep, the place everyone predicted was going the way of the dinosaur just a couple of years ago.)

The clearest example of this is the trend of successful, digitally-native retailers opening up physical stores. A whole session was dedicated just to interviewing online retailers who had made the leap from the screen to the street. Here are the top three takeaways I learned from Bonobos, Birchbox, Away, and ModCloth (interestingly, the latter of which was recently acquired by Walmart).

Data is great, but human connection is better.

Being born online, it’s a safe bet to say these four brands have a strong appreciation and familiarity with data. The ability to collect vast amounts of consumer data has long been a point on the online retailer’s scoreboard over physical retail. Tracking clicks, carts, and conversions is extremely valuable. However, the panel all agreed the move to physical retail was spearheaded by one big reason – a need to connect with the consumer. Online data doesn’t compare to being among your customers, talking to them and watching them interact with your product in a physical store. Long-term relationships are forged in the physical world and despite the rise in technological advancements, shoppers today are increasingly craving a human connection.

Physical drives digital, and vice versa. 

Retailers report seeing a lift in local online sales where a store exists. This was the case for Away in particular. As a high-end luggage retailer, allowing customers the ability to come into the store to check out a product before ordering online created a showrooming effect that worked to the retailer’s (and the customer’s) benefit. This uptick in local online sales has become a KPI for physical stores along with increased brand awareness and press coverage. 

Personalize the experience.

While it might seem like the adage build it and they will come” applies here, Bonobos, Birchbox, Away, and ModCloth all agree that’s not the case. As mentioned at the beginning, experience is top priority for retailers. It’s not enough to open a store and wait for the crowds to form. As consumers increasingly value experiences over things, it’s important to use physical space for initiatives that will drive brand awareness as well as foster community. Consider other ways your brand can add value to the lives of your customer beyond the products you sell by hosting an event or workshop, incorporating local tastes, and personalizing the experience in ways that online just can’t do.

Exploring more ways to marry online and in-store strategies? Download our Digital-To-Physical Playbook: 5 Options that Maximize the ROI of Opening a Physical Space.