Large-Format Experiential Stores Focus on the Customer Experience
At a time when many retailers might be cutting back on brick-and-mortar investments to focus more on e-commerce, a few notable ones are taking the opposite approach and launching large-format experiential stores to immerse customers in the full brand experience and offer items in each product category, from couches to dresses.
Such stores are engaging shoppers by making the customer experience the focus. Anthropologie, for example, is growing its new stores to provide a unique experience that includes full service shops and access to online-only merchandise in its new Anthropologie & Co. stores.
For retailers considering expanding their store layouts – and even retailers with no plans to do so – understanding what makes larger format experiential stores successful can provide valuable insights to improve brick-and-mortar operations. With an effective strategy in place, such stores have the potential to offer several key benefits and keep customers coming back.
Create a unique customer experience
Large-format experiential stores can lead to an unparalleled shopping experience. With a wider range of inventory and plenty of room to shop, each section of the store is meticulously designed and curated for the shopper.
Anthropologie’s experiential format include a full beauty section, petites selection, shoe and accessories salon and jewelry store. It also include a home section, with fully decorated “rooms,” including bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms.
Conversely, traditional Anthropologie stores might only have clothing, a handful of accessories and a small selection of home goods. This wide variety of options gives customers the opportunity to customize their experience to fit their personal needs, ultimately building customer loyalty. It also enables customers to imagine what certain pieces commonly only found online – such as furniture – might look like in their own homes.
Offer more than merchandise
In addition to including a wider variety of merchandise than your typical store, some large-format experiential stores go beyond merchandise when it comes to pleasing their customers. For example, Restoration Hardware began opening larger scale stores, known as RH galleries, to highlight more of its designs, which they refer to as “next generation design galleries.”
Beyond simply providing a wide variety of Restoration Hardware merchandise, the retailer included an upscale restaurant and café at its RH Chicago (The Gallery at the Historic 3 Arts Club) location that has become so successful, the retailer has added eateries to additional gallery locations.
These stores provide value to the customer throughout their entire in-store experience –whether through a seamless shopping or dining experience. Other retailers can learn that offering customers a full brand experience – and encouraging customers to return time and time again – can go beyond simply the expanded inventory and layout. It is about creating a unique experience that customers can’t get through online shopping.
Focus on convenience at check-out
While many consumers have been receptive to large format experiential stores, it’s important for retailers to set themselves up for success by avoiding making the stores feel too big. Though convenient, large stores with endless merchandise can be overwhelming for both employees and customers.
Large-format experiential stores give shoppers the opportunity to find and check out items that they might want to order online, but are concerned about size, fit and function. While these stores – which can be 25,000 sq. ft. or more in size – are meant to hold maximum inventory, successful retailers have made the space feel personal with their design layout and customer service.
Brick-and-mortar stores both large and small can make their shopping space feel more personal by having plenty of staff roaming the store to assist customers with mobile POS devices, like tablets, to help find items or check-out.
Customer service and simple payment options are both key to large experiential formats and online retail success because shoppers tend to place the highest value on flexibility and convenience. In Worldpay’s recent Pay That Way study, shoppers revealed that they make purchasing and payment decisions based on availability (18%), speed (13%) and convenience (15%). If the customer experience is inconvenient, there’s a chance customers might not complete transactions or return to a given store in the future.
Retailers can also provide more convenience at check-out by offering multiple payment options, such as contactless cards and mobile wallets, so their customers can pay the way they want.
Mark Bergner is director of product strategy at Worldpay US, a global payments company for all channels: in-store, online and via mobile.
The Ins & Outs of Closeouts
Jeff Katkowsky, VP with Sachse Construction, will share his insights and experiences as part of a panel focused on overcoming obstacles during closeouts at SPECS/2017.
Every year for more than 50 years, the SPECS conference provides retail professionals with a unique constellation of opportunities to learn from while engaging with fellow professionals. From extensive educational programming to peer engagement and special presentations, SPECS is designed to provide attendees with a packed slate of workshops, panel sessions, special roundtables and other events.
Industry professionals who attend SPECS can expect to benefit from practical advice, penetrating insights, and a wealth of new information, resources and relationships. SPECS’ program includes a selection of educational sessions and seminars designed to address the opportunities and challenges facing professionals in 2017 and for many years to come. The 2017 conference features important information about common concerns and emerging trends, tactics and technologies.
One topic bound to be of interest is Project Closeout: Overcoming Obstacles, a panel session brought back by popular demand from last year’s event. The session offers a deeper dive into the issues and obstacles encountered during project closeout – from certificates of occupancy and lien waivers to open punch list items, inspections and municipality relationships.
Attendees will be able to pull from the real-life experiences of panelists and use that information going forward as they prepare to closeout a project. Jeff Katkowsky, VP with Sachse Construction, will sit on the panel, joining Larry Tureff, a VP of Construction with ULTA; Ken Kosinski, DTC RE Concept Construction Director with Nike, Inc.; and Sheila Cannon, a Senior VP & the National Director with Project and Development Services for JLL.
Katkowsky and his fellow panelists will discuss the closeout process that is a part of every construction project, reviewing some of the challenges that can arise when every client has a list of (sometimes very different) requirements and expectations for how they expect to conduct that process.
He will review the standard items included in the closeout process: copies of all relevant permits; a master list of subcontractors who contributed to the project and what their contributions/responsibilities were; and full operating manuals for any appliances and other third-party products included in the project. He will also discuss the importance of as-built documents, a typical expectation of contractors showing how systems were initially constructed and installed.
Katkowsky’s discussion will include a range of tips and best practices to help professionals on both sides of these relationships plan for and conduct comprehensive and mutually beneficial closeouts. Those tips include:
Begin with the end in mind
Identify what the closeout requirements are before the project begins. Most general contractors have a strong sense of what information and documentation will be needed, but if you wait until the end of the project to communicate about client needs, you can get into a predicament. The goal should be to create clarity – and this requires clear and consistent communication. Be proactive: reach out to your client or contractor to determine what their expectations are.
If you track it, it will improve
Make a point to track the information and documentation you will need as you go. Creating a checklist and monitoring it throughout the construction and development process – and talking with the project team on a weekly basis to update that checklist – is not only an efficient way to operate, but prevents many of the common end-of-project issues that can crop up around closeout documentation. Weekly team meetings are an ideal place to engage in ongoing discussions about progress, timing and any emerging issues.
Big problems were once little problems
One of the most common issues that can slow down or derail the closeout process revolves around subcontractors. Financial issues with subcontractors can be a particularly common source of snags. Consequently, it’s critical to resolve all subcontractor financial issues well before the end of the project. Almost all big problems were once little problems, and working with an experienced general contractor who can catch issues early can save enormous amounts of time and money. Securing a final lien waiver–a signed document where the subcontractor acknowledges that they have been paid in full and there are no open financial disputes–is critical, and a delay in providing them can be problematic. For example, until final lien waivers are produced, a landlord might not release monies set aside for tenant improvements.
Attendees will hear from Katkowsky about strategies he and his team have deployed effectively to ensure financial complications with subcontractors are ironed out well before the closeout process, including sending and receiving signed monthly reconciliation forms outlining agreed-upon payment schedules, fees and receipts.
Katkowsky will discuss the process of securing a certificate of occupancy, including issues like inspections and documentation that needs to be resolved before a temporary certificate is converted to a final. Attendees will hear about the importance of sticking to completion dates, and the dire implications of missing those dates. Retailers often order advertising and structure merchandising, operations, and team logistics around the opening date. Permitting hangups or lingering construction issues can create costly delays to those plans.
Finally, Katkowsky will emphasize the top priorities and big-picture issues that should inform all closeout work, including the need to be proactive and service-focused. He will remind attendees that closeout really starts before the project begins, and that “the last one percent of a project is all the client remembers.” Because no matter how smoothly the construction process goes, if you can’t manage closeout efficiently and in a timely manner, all of the accumulated goodwill goes down the drain.
Target Open House closed — but just for a couple of months
Target Corp. its updating its experimental concept store in San Francisco, Target Open House, which opened in summer 2015 as a showcase for smart, “connected” home technology.
In a blog on its website, Target said Open House has closed for a significant remodel project. It will reopen to the public on Friday, Feb. 10.
“We built Open House as an iterative space that is all about research and development around the connected consumer,” said Target’s VP of consumer IoT, Gene Han. “We’ve measured guest traffic and sales and listened to what guests and entrepreneurs had to say about their experiences. And we’ve learned a lot about perceptions of connected home technologies. Now, with this feedback, we’ll renovate Open House in ways that will help better engage, educate and excite guests and the IOT community.”
In the blog, Target revealed five of the most exciting new features and experiences being installed as part of the remodel:
• A new space, called “The Garage,” where companies can showcase or launch early-stage products on a retail shelf, get valuable quantitative and qualitative feedback on their products and have direct visibility to Target buyers. The space will preview 16 products that will rotate every month.
• A personalized experience within the space’s acrylic home installation that more effectively demonstrates the potential of various connected products for the user. Guests will be asked to answer a series of questions, which allow the house to show a personalized example of how connected products could fit into their lives.
• A new, flexible event space to accommodate Open’s House’s popular and frequent gatherings. The refreshed space will be modular, allowing Open House to more easily transition from a store during the day to a community gathering spot in the evening.
• An updated interactive space, including vertically mounted touchscreen monitors. In all, the new space will feature around 70 Internet of Things products.
• Enhanced feedback and analytics for partners, including the ability to do A/B testing, view product interactions and comparative engagement data, see event recaps and receive qualitative feedback from guests.