As e-commerce continues to skyrocket in popularity, brick-and-mortar stores have been reinventing the kind of service they offer customers to stave off extinction. But it’s been a rough time. According to Business of Fashion, 8,642 retail stores closed in 2017 in the U.S. alone, a number declared an ongoing “retail apocalypse” by retail industry futurist and author Doug Stephens.

But retail stores can offer something online merchants can’t: a shopping experience. Brands have stories to tell, a physical presence with which to engage and delight customers, and the opportunity to offer individualized service to everyone who walks through their door.

Creating a Sense of Community

Part of that is fostering a sense of community; placing greater emphasis on the hospitality and entertainment aspect of the shopping experience, and focusing less on the goods for sale. This can include everything from offering personal style assistant service, coffee bars and lounges, entertaining in-store experiences and of course, making a connection with the customer to make them feel special and wanted.

Stores that master the art of creating customer experience set themselves up for longevity, which in this retail environment where stores and entire brands are dropping like flies, is becoming more of a necessity than ever. Gaining a better grasp of customer wants and needs is also part of cultivating that experience, and adopting a direct-to-consumer model helps brands get that understanding while simultaneously controlling their message.

MVMT is a direct-to-consumer maker of watches and accessories, offering “great-looking watches at an accessible price point,” co-founder Jake Kassan told Glossy. The direct-to-consumer model gives brands total control over their brand identity, and the customer data gathered in the shopping process provides actionable insight that can be leveraged to make a stronger connection with their customers.

MVMT Community on Instagram 

Reach and Interact with Customers, Wherever they are

Knowing your customer means knowing what channels through best to reach them, what will appeal to their tastes and desires, and what kinds of products and experiences will keep them coming back again and again. Intelligently using that customer data will drive engagement.

MVMT took this approach, using a multitude of platforms to engage with new and existing customers. Their brand launch happened on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo (where they raised $272,000). Launching on that platform gave them the opportunity to engage directly with backers. They also took to watch enthusiast forums to continue the conversation, and it continues to this day on Instagram.

The sense of community brands can nurture with customers happens on all retail channels, from in-store to online and everything in between. By bringing customers in, making them feel like part of the conversation and part of the community you’ve created, it can create lasting, meaningful relationships.

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