Trends Driving In-store Experience

Earlier this year, our CEO Rebecca Horton chatted with foot traffic analytics company Dor about key trends driving the future of in-store experience. We focused especially on applications of trends that had a strong operational foundation, to ensure they could be easily applied and scaled, rather than looked at as ‘the cool exciting thing that’s only possible in Manhattan.’ Without further ado, here are our three favorite trends:

Social Storytelling

One of the biggest plays for retailers today lies in the realm of image and video-based storytelling using digital platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Our take on how to do this well is what we like to call “social storytelling,” which refers to a social media strategy that includes specific guidelines for daily posting of market-level content to engage audiences deeply and authentically in a story-driven, human to human way. Photofy, our partners for our latest pop-up in Raleigh, The Market at Cotton Bar, focus on just this thing: social content creation to facilitate photo-sharing and social commerce. We believe that the formula to doing this kind of storytelling well lies in having shared tools across an enterprise that allow for personalization and customization and offering regular training and guidelines to set up your market-level staff and brand representatives for success. To get started with social storytelling we recommend:
  • Identifying a tool like Photofy and/or MeetEdgar for folks to use across your organization to make social assets consistent, repostable and easily-accessible
  • Assigning one store associate at all times to the task of posting/digital storytelling.
  • Consider training the associate/associates who will be posting content in the basics of photo and video, as well as the art of writing engaging captions (and titles, if you’re working with YouTube as a primary channel)
One of the brands who we’ve been watching closely for best practices when it comes to social storytelling is Outdoor Voices. This company offers localized Instagram accounts (e.g. OV Nashville) to promote events and respond to market-level needs, while also providing national content suitable to all audiences and their e-commerce shoppers via their main Instagram account.

Shrinking Store

Our second trend to watch is the “shrinking store.” This trend is about making the most of every square foot and reimagining the giant big box store format to build a small footprint that’s more of an ‘experience center’ or ‘merchandise pick-up’ hub. In order to do this well, brands need to decide if they’d like to focus more on brand exposure and customer experience or fulfillment and add-on purchase discovery as they reimagine their store format—both models can work. If they choose the former, they need to develop a merchandising strategy that focuses on curation, human touch, and storytelling. If they choose the latter, market-level analytics are key: consider showcasing a small selection of products that will perform well in your market and provoke a sense of curiosity and intrigue—these products can also be displayed at checkout when the online order is placed. When merchandising a smaller store format, we recommend offering a mix of impulse purchases and considered buys rather than leaning heavily towards one or the other. Models we love that are exploring this trend include the small format Targets located on college campuses, and b8ta.

Digitally Savvy Workforce

Our third trend to watch is all about in-store digital enhancements that aren’t about flashy smart store gadgets and mobile shopping as they are about stealthily empowering store associates to better serve customers. To apply this trend, both encourage and train your store associates to leverage tools like in-store wifi and advanced technologies to better serve customers. We can’t emphasize the training side of this recommendation enough!. Consider and implement a strategy for workforce training that ensures all staff are regularly brought up-to-date on new technologies impacting your store and consider bringing them into a brainstorm discussion about how to fully leverage them and how to create better, easier to use tools. For example, installing a foot traffic tracking tool across key transition points can help you more dynamically staff your store in its busiest and slowest moments.From our experience, your technology is only as good as your people-and people must be central to any tech implementation strategy. The coolest and sexiest in-store gadgets and systems will fail you unless you train associates in how to use them effectively and ensure they actually make associates’ jobs easier, not harder. As an example, in-store mobile support via employee cell phones is a great idea, but if employees aren’t able to regularly charge their cell phones and communicate with customers on their devices without violating corporate policies, that idea will fall flat.