To subscribe to the BoF Podcast, please follow this link.
The role of physical retail has changed drastically over the past few years — particularly amid the pandemic — as customers turned to digital channels and brands sharpened their focus on e-commerce. But, physical stores remain an important touchpoint. During this month’s BoF Professional Summit “What’s a Store For?” Krishna Nikhil, chief merchandising officer & chief marketing officer of Ssense, and Web Smith, founder of 2PM, unpacked the different ways brands are transforming their stores to be more than just a place to conduct transactions. That means thinking about a physical retail space as a means to provide experiences and entertainment that are relevant to their audiences and continue to prioritise service.
“It’s so important to think about how you create something that is meaningful for the customer,” says Nikhil. “For us, that really started with this idea of ‘how do we reinvent how commerce takes place in the store?’”
Nikhil and Web Smith, founder of retail media company 2PM, join BoF’s founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed for a discussion about making stores a grounds for immersive experiences without diluting their purpose of obtaining customers.
Ssense has streamlined the trying-and-buying process to be more efficient by introducing an appointment service so that customers can spend their time in-store engaging with the cultural programming and the “big moments” the retailer orchestrates — like Virgil Abloh’s 2018 “Cutting Room Floor” exhibition, which recreated his studio in the space. “What we are doing is giving both a great experience with product, but also giving time back to that customer… That time back, is about immersion in all the other experiences that we create in the store,” said Nikhil.
Pointing to direct-to-consumer start-up Rowing Blazers, which used only about 30 to 40 percent of the space in its flagship for actual merchandise, Smith says product doesn’t need to dominate a store. “What are the associated things: the moments, the history, the accessories that you were merchandising with — the history of the industry itself?” he said. “What are those things that you would associate with the sale of those products?”
As the line between media and commerce increasingly intersects, brands need to present a specific vision of their point of view to the audience they want to attract. “Products are almost commoditised at this point: anyone can make anything. What makes a product unique right now is the person that’s selling it and the audience that they’re selling it to,” said Smith.