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5 Biggest Takeaways from Future Stores

Future Stores Seattle just wrapped after four days of sessions, site tours, and great conversations. We were thrilled to have so many brands come visit the Innovation Lab at The Garrigan Lyman Group (GLG) to check out our demos and have deeper discussions on digital customer experiences. Because the tour of our Innovation Lab was sold out, we know there were some of you that didn’t get to come—reach out if that’s you!

Overall, attendees had a lot of energy and excitement throughout the conference, even if most retailers shared common fears of reducing footprints, layoffs, and even store closures. Everyone attended with the shared goal of understanding the purpose of brick-and-mortar in today’s retail ecosystem and how technology innovations and digital experiences fit into that vision. While there may not have been any magic solutions to the questions raised, there were some key themes that emerged during the conference, each accompanied by valuable insights and real-life examples shared by attendees.

Here were the five big themes of Future Stores:

1. Create a destination.

To address the question of store purpose, various brands agreed that their stores needed to offer an experience, something a customer couldn’t get from their brand online. Angela Gearhart of Sleep Number kicked off her presentation with this statistic: “Humans retain 90 percent of what they experience.” She went on to showcase all of the ways Sleep Number has created for customers to experience its beds in stores and at events. Similarly, Whitney Walker of Sonos talked about the need for the Sonos flagship store to capture what it’s like to experience the company’s products in the home, explaining why Sonos built listening rooms for customers to visit to create an experience completely different from just listening to a speaker on a shelf in a big-box store.

2. Add value to your customers' experiences.

Digging deeper into what type of store experiences will move the dial, another panel talked about value-added services as a way to make the store experience stand out. David Lammers of Dick’s Sporting Goods described how his team had added in-store golf swing and gait analysis and was now moving to create an in-store team sport headquarters, even offering a way for teams to track their stats. At the same time, Matt Marcotte of M2 Collaborative cautioned that value-added services can be great, but only if they align to a clear, detailed customer experience strategy. Without one, he said, retailers are just “putting lipstick on a pig.”

3. Narrow the options.

Curation was another approach to creating unique in-store experiences that was echoed again and again. Curation can not only make your in-store experience special, but it can also encourage browsing and cross-selling. In the roundtable discussion I moderated at the conference, we talked about creating an endless aisle experience that isn’t so much “endless” as it is a curated experience that narrows the choices and helps customers see how products can fit together. Additionally, in her fireside chat, Sarah Furnari of Behr talked about the success of offering Home Depot customers a narrowed selection of interior colors, out of the hundreds of color choices they otherwise have to choose from. She also talked about the success of the Joanna Gaines collection of Kilz paints, curated by celebrity interior decorator Joanna Gaines.

4. Make the business case.

These ideas and success stories all sound well and good, but many retailers said they faced a big challenge in making a business case for in-store experiences—and specifically the investment in digital experiences. In response, Scott Emmons of Neiman Marcus offered a couple of examples of how he was able to successfully demonstrate ROI or secure funding. As an example, for its latest Memory Mirrors now available at its makeup counters, Neiman Marcus partnered with makeup brands to pay for the experience. Similarly, when Neiman Marcus introduced in-store charging stations that visitors could use in exchange for a little personal data, Mr. Emmons was able to prove ROI by tracking new customer acquisition.

5. Start with culture.

Nearly all of the brands sharing success stories expressed the same sentiment: they were only able to create these experiences because they embrace technology in their culture and because they have buy-in from the top down. Their C-suites understand the value of including digital in the stores and that today’s customers expect the same frictionless, personalized experiences when they walk into a store that they can find online. There was a repeated sort of mantra about being “beyond channel.” Mr. Marcotte said that successful stores of the future will need to look at incentives and bonuses market-wide rather than by channel so that businesses don’t find themselves competing against themselves. And above all, businesses must start with a cohesive, holistic digital customer engagement strategy.

Of course, this article only scratches the surface of all the great presentations and conversations had at Future Stores. If you’d like to hear more, roadmap or gut-check your digital customer engagement strategy, or check out our Innovation Lab, drop me a line. I’d love to keep this momentum and enthusiasm from the conference going.