We hear from clients and people all over the retail industry, why Columbus? Well, little do they know that Columbus is a true retail hub. Not only home to massive brands like, Victoria’s Secret and Express, we have an entire retail ecosystem at play that supports the entire world of retail. From brick-in-mortar to online technology to construction, Columbus is the place where retail is created and built.
Last week, we were able to be part of the Retail Summit right here in our backyard. The event was two days of heavy retail insights, inspiration, and consumer and retail statistics. Held by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Chuties were in attendance and at the podium offering our take on what’s happening and what’s driving retail forward. Here are a few standout highlights:
Of course, we’re no stranger to this position and we’ve been saying it since the beginning. But what I found most interesting from the summit was that it’s not just the experience, rather that we need to bring THEATER back into retail. Telling stories that connect. Offering something that makes the environment ignite a spark and feeling into the belly of the shopper. This is beyond customer engagement. It’s special and can’t be faked. Too long have brands ignored the in-store experience. Sure, there were other factors at play like getting their online presence up to snuff, their logistics and operations in line to support those efforts. It’s clear that Marketing and Operations departments should not be separate entities, and if they are, you’re doing it wrong. People will buy online, but shoppers stopped going to your store because it became tired and boring. The fact remains, as reported by Time Trade Survey, “85% of consumers prefer to shop in physical retail because of the touch and feel of products.” Time for brands to stop being old and crusty – dust off those cobwebs and show your customers what you can do.
The unknown Gen-Z. Who are these kids and what do they want from your brand? With tech at their fingertips from day one, they are more connected and savvy than ever. What are they doing on those phones? YouTube. Yes, they are watching videos to not only be entertained, but to learn new skills. With influencers like PewDiePie, and I only know who he is because of my 6-year-old cousin constantly making me watch his video game walk-through, kids are transfixed by tutorials and seeing the latest in gaming and products. Less burdened with perfection, reality is fun, identifiable, and more important than ever. Not only tech driven, these kids are focused on human and environmental issues that previous generations just touched on. Taking steps on lowering their carbon footprint and making the world more sustainable are issues that they will not ignore.
Only Humans Allowed
With innovation comes raised expectations. Today’s tech has made us, really, quite picky when it comes to our convenience/quality/you-name-it requirements. How do you compete with Amazon? How do you alleviate pain points in your customer journey? How do you keep your audience interested? It’s not easy, but you can start by being human. Differentiate yourself from those found on the cold, hard screen by infusing human qualities and values into your brand’s soul. “Be Empowering. Be Transparent. Be Frictionless. Be Tactile,” were the words of design:retail’s Alison Embry Medina as she inspired everyone at the conference on how to humanize the guest experience for today’s connected customer. Great examples like the Lolë White Tour and Jane Motorcycles embodied that desired connection to a passionate community.
Afterall, we are not robots—stop treating us as such. Oh, but brands like Amazon, Best Buy, and Lowe’s are launching robots. What a confusing time we are living in, folks. Again, we’re looking for the “human connection.” Learning something new or experiencing (look that word again) something makes for a better understanding and development of brand love.
Service is the new retail. Brands should not be focusing on the NEEDs of the customer, but rather the WANTs. This is where brands can truly win and make an impact. NEEDs can be easily satisfied by a tap of a screen. Wants are exciting, indulged, and highly celebrated. Brands that offer a unique service creating an easy, yet special engagement, like Pimkie, can make best friends quickly.
Back to Your Roots
DSW’s CEO, Roger Rawlins, gave an energetic closing presentation on the state of their brand and how they’re making advancements in their brick and mortar formats. The core message of the presentation was taking the brand back to their roots, and delivering on the experience that originally set them apart. While looking back at their roots, they fearlessly look forward, incorporating features that will up their service game and differentiate DSW from the competition. Especially knowing the values of Gen Z and Millennials, living your authentic story is key!
Give It Up For 614
Dear, Columbus, we love you. At the center of the Retail Summit, was the focus on giving Columbus it’s retail shining moment. The often-overlooked art and fashion city, Columbus made its debut with a power packed program with Design leaders and Retail influencers. The Columbus Retail ecosystem is fierce with retailers, designers, manufactures, researchers, tech entrepreneurs, startups, and educational powerhouses. There is clearly a stamp of intrigue in the Columbus market from outsiders. How do they do it? We know. Come find out. We study, we set trends, we create, develop, and execute. We shape retail for real people.