Heading into a new decade, savvy retailers are firming up their strategies for success — especially when it comes to driving customer engagement at store-level.
As 2020 approaches, retailers are ready to innovate and adopt new concepts — from innovation to immersive experiences — to improve their customer relevancy going forward. Many of these concepts will be front and center at Chain Store Age’s SPECS 2020 conference, held March 15-17 at the Gaylord Texan.
From localization and collaboration to new methods of customer engagement, here are the strategies that retailers expect to play a bigger role in 2020:
Retailers will repurpose existing space with new services. As customers’ needs continue to change, retailers are looking for new ways to keep them engaged. For many, this includes reconfiguring existing physical stores with new services.
Brands are exploring different opportunities, from store-within-a-store pop-ups to buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) departments, as well as revamped front end solutions augmented by self-checkout technology and new service offerings. For example, when Staples began moving larger, bulkier inventory out of stores and into warehouses to await online order fulfillment, it had to find a way to fill newly emptied square footage. For Staples this new opportunity was the addition of a co-working concept.
“Instead of losing sales per square footage, we found a way to offer a new service and leverage available space in stores across our network,” David Schulman, Staples’ VP of real estate, said this month at the ICSC New York Deal Making Conference in New York City.
The retailer unveiled its co-working concept, called Staples Studio, in June. Designed for small businesses, entrepreneurs and commuters, the new format offers an environment where “businesses can focus on creating, collaborating and connecting in shared workspaces and private or shared offices,” according to the company.
The spaces, which also feature community kitchens stocked with beverages and snacks and meeting rooms, also give users access to a podcasting studio, and unlimited black and white printing. Members are also entitled to 500 color printed business cards and TSA pre-application program enrollment.
The first Staples Studios opened in three stores in Massachusetts (Brighton, Danvers and Norwood), and the company planned to open additional locations in Boston-area sites.
Similarly, Office Depot debuted a similar concept last August, at its store in Los Gatos, California. It followed up the effort in April, by opening a Workonomy Hub coworking space at its stores in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and Irving, Texas.
Localization will become increasingly important. Retailers that can immerse themselves into their local communities have a better chance of improving their relevancy among shoppers and creating long-term relationships. Shake Shack uses this strategy to “become a partner in the marketplaces we operate in,” Carren Coston, director real estate, Shake Shack, said at the conference.
For Shake Shack, this includes creating new burgers that reflect the history of the community, or using locally-sourced ingredients. The burger chain also invests in technology that enables local customers to easily order, pick up or pay for meals based on their preferences or buying patterns.
Collaboration between landlords and retailers will be a must. As retailers strive to innovate their brands, shopping center landlords could be retailers’ most strategic partner going forward. Retailers are always in search of ways to stand out from the competition, and enlisting the help of property owners could be the key to their success.
“Retailers that create a partnership with landlords are interested in growing and being successful in the long-term,” David Krueger, Ulta’s senior VP, growth and development, shared at ICSC.
“Brands are often interested in hearing a property owner’s strategies to ensure their retail centers can become vibrant community destinations, and the role the retailer can play in this plan,” he said. “It’s all about both parties having mutual respect for each other and building a relationship.”