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“Sometimes people want to shop. And sometimes people want to go shopping.” Tim Kobe is the lead designer behind the Apple store and we talked at length about the future of retail when we met at the World Retail Congress in Dubai earlier this year.

The evidence is that retail is polarising. The more we see the rise of highly efficient online retailers on the one hand, the more we will see the rise of highly experiential retailers on the other.

They key is to be clear where your business is sitting.

When it comes to efficiency, all eyes are on Amazon. In April this year, Amazon launched two concept stores in Seattle called Amazon Fresh Pick Up. They claim that this is the fastest way to order fresh produce. Just drive in, wait while the products are packed straight into the boot of your car, and then drive out. There are no check-outs, no queues and no need to get out of your car. And when that level of convenience is combined with Amazon’s prices it presents a formidable proposition for customers ticking off their routine shop.

 

 

And that’s just the start. Earlier this year my team at The General Store spent a couple of weeks reviewing the patents that Amazon have submitted in the USA, which gives an eye opening insight into where that business is heading. For example, they have registered a patent for a floating airship distribution centre that can adjust its location according to real-time sales data to increase the efficiency of their drone delivery network.

And while there are a small number of retailers looking to take Amazon head on with a low price, high convenience proposition, most retailers are looking for clear air by going to the other extreme – creating immersive customer experiences.

Rapha Co-Founder and CEO, Simon Mottram sees himself as being “in the business of creating great moments”. The cult cycling brand, sees average dwell times of 33 minutes in their “Club Houses”, which are as much coffee shops, snack stops and bustling meeting places for lovers of lycra as they are a retail store.

Retailers like Jo Malone are championing the return of creativity in retail. ‘Jo Loves’ is her latest retail concept that offers customers “tapas for the nose”, Jo’s team take customers on a four course journey where shower gels are prepared in cocktail shakers, bath cologne is warmed in tagines before being released via a cloud of scented steam, and body lotion is whipped into a foam and then brushed onto your skin. Creativity can be hard to quantify, but with conversion rates in-store sitting at 94%, Jo Loves is a shining example of the value in delivering rich and unexpected in-store experiences.

Another brand that has recognised the value in the in-store experience is Lululemon. CEO and VP of Global Brand Programs, Eric Petersen, explained how Lululemon’s strategy of putting its entire marketing budget into staff and stores (which double as free community yoga spaces) has helped build a loyal customer base one community at a time.

The above are just three examples among an increasing number of retailers taking greater creative risks. There will be a handful of retailers that take on Amazon at the efficiency end of the spectrum. But for everyone else, it’s about winning on experience.

So as the landscape continues to evolve be clear on how you are going to market. Do your customers want to shop? Or do they want to go shopping?

Matt Newell is a global speaker and innovation strategist who works with business leaders around the world to turn information into high impact strategies. He is the Founder and Executive Strategy Director of The General Store, a company that specialises in retail strategy and innovation. And he sits on the advisory board of the Masters of Marketing program at Swinburne University.

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