IRDC: Retail Recap from the Big Easy

IRDC: Retail Recap from the Big Easy

IRDC: Retail Recap from the Big Easy 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

VMSD’s International Retail and Design Conference (IRDC) never ceases to lack in energy and inspiration, especially with the perfect backdrop of the one-of-a-kind city of New Orleans. Peers and partners alike join for this 3-day event of networking and education, bringing together the best and the brightest of the industry to share stories and challenge each other to push the retail industry further. This year today’s consumer, a fast-moving target, took center focus as brands look for new ways to connect in our complex commerce universe. Here’s a few highlights from the Big Easy.

Consistency = Authenticity

How do you stand out among a sea of competition? How do you keep your customers engaged? The dreaded Amazon is hovering over every retailer’s head, right? Keynote speaker, Peter Kim, I think, said it best, “[The product] is the souvenir of the experience you carry from the brand.” Sure, Hudson Jeans are all about the denim. But it’s how the customer experiences the entire brand and how that is activated within a space that makes them choose to purchase and identify with a brand. Authenticity is found in consistency, and as Kim put it, “if you have to talk about authenticity you’re f*cked.” With a new concept opening in LA in 2018, not only a place to purchase jeans but a full event space filled with unique moments and attitude, we’re looking forward to seeing just how he moves his strong brand promise to a new level.

Hudson Coffee Table Book
Hudson Jeans Display

Foodies at Retail

As more and more shoppers look to new and engaging moments in the retail space, we see new brand activations that has food creeping more and more into the retail sector. Consumers may be less retail focused, but grocery stores are taking note of the opportunity for smaller, more curated experiences for core customer segments. Concepts like Kroger’s Main & Vine is dedicated to serving up convenience with day trip shopping with ease for those looking to pop in and find the freshest ingredients.

Exterior of Main & Vine
Interior of Main & Vine

Constantly looking to innovate and provide the highest level of quality to their customers, Whole Foods is no stranger to introducing new ideas and social interactions. Incorporating stand-alone Brewery Tap Rooms and Coffee Houses they are extending the customer engagement and offering a new place for their social clientele to gather and enjoy.

Bartender at Whole Foods Taproom
Whole Foods Taproom Interior

Even traditional retail concepts are getting into the game. REI are now in the beer and event business, opening Wunder Garten in Washington D.C. What started as a pop-up, Wunder Garten is now a permanent location for events like Oktoberfest, German brews, food trucks, and private parties. In partnership with NOMA, the open-air space is a place to enjoy beers with friends and learn all about what the Washington DC park system has to offer. REI has been busy in the NOMA neighborhood, also opening a new Flagship location last October in the historic Washington Coliseum.

REI Wunder Garten Seating
REI Wunder Garten Bar

Create a Community

It’s become clear that brands are truly listening to their customers and employees to overhaul their experiences. Looking to connect with customers on an everyday level and become part of their lives. Aligning a brand with intension and purpose to spark passion and love from its core followers. Brands are now social and provide a sense of community for customers in an impactful way.

Soul Cycle Bikes
People Riding at Soul Cycle

SoulCycle spoke on the importance of creating a community of like-minded customers and it’s been the center of their success. Not only offering a high energy, full body work out, they offer a sense of belonging. Their instructors become their superstars, curating the 45-minute workout with impact, sweat, and fun. SoulCycle makes people feel and they are winning. So, what’s next for the heart thumping experience brand? is coming and we’re on the edge just waiting to find out.

The Amazon Effect

Person leaving Amazon Go
Prime Wardrobe Delivery

During the event, Amazon was named as 2017 VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year. You could hear the audible rumbling from the crowd; carrying both positive and negative views. It’s clear the mammoth brand is making waves in the retail world. Opening retail locations, Amazon Go, Amazon Wardrobe, 1-hour delivery, drones, the purchase of Whole Foods, and more it’s the 300lb gorilla that has everyone’s talking and studying. As painful as it might be for some to figure out how to compete, we believe it could just be the HUGE push the industry needs to start making some big strategic moves.

post by Amanda Seevers

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Amanda is an adept observer of the market, noting headlines and happenings in the industry, and keeping the studio informed. She’s a key contributor to CG’s thought leadership, writing for both the blog and The Gist, our quarterly e-newsletter. You can read more posts from Amanda here >

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