Back in the halcyon days of spring, 2001, Apple opened its doors for its first-ever Apple Store in MacLean, Virginia.It represented a new generation of in-store commerce, with its open floor plan, streamlined interior and products displayed in a way that begged for customers to touch and play. And play they did. Long lines outside Apple Stores became a recurring phenomenon, grabbing scads of headlines and attention for what is now one of the world’s most successful retailers.
Brick-and-Mortar’s Evolve-or-Die moment
Now that Amazon has become a force of nature and other giant retailers are clamoring to snatch crumbs from the e-commerce giant’s pie, the humble retail store is at an inflection point where it is faced with the decision to look towards the future or be consigned to the dustbin of history.
To that end, more and more retailers are revamping the looks of their stores, embracing the “showrooming” trend as a strength, rather than a weakness, and using it as an opportunity to leave an impression on their customers and get them excited about their products and brand. Stores are employing cutting edge technology, striking brand-centric interiors, and encouraging customers to spend more time within their walls by providing snacks and coffee, and other activities that online retailers simply can’t provide.
Nike Store, NYC
Adidas Store, NYC
Encouraging customers to play in the store
This is all part of an effort for retailers to focus on the experience of shopping, and big-name sportswear retailers like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are a natural fit for such a concept. In late 2016, Nike opened a new location in New York City featuring a mini indoor basketball court, a treadmill with large TV screens to simulate running in different environments, and a small enclosure for playing soccer. Adidas followed suit with its new Manhattan location, with a themed interior and dressing rooms adorned like locker rooms. These touches foster an interactive environment that gives customers the opportunity to try before they buy in innovative new ways.
Retailers are hopping on the social media bandwagon, too, creating store features essentially designed to be photographed and shared. The Museum of Ice Cream is a series of pop-up shops that happen to sell ice cream, but are more focused on things like a swimming pool full of sprinkles and giant Gummy Bears. The likes of Jay-Z, Beyoncé and family stopping in for a recent visit in New York cemented the shop’s place in social media history.
MUSEUM OF ICE CREAM, LA
Instores, appearances count now more than ever
Many stores are also designing their interiors to resemble a luxury apartment or condo, with exposed brick or beams, coffee, snack and wine bars, and more, offering plush, rustic interiors as a backdrop for their product displays, this in contrast to the staid, uninspired presentations of the past.
Between aesthetics, interactivity, and attention-grabbing displays, retail stores are learning that in order to remain relevant, they have to offer their customers more than was expected when they were the only game in town.