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01/21/2019

SPECS Speak: It’s all about the immersive experience

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Retailers want in on experiential retail.

With an eye on delivering more immersive experiences at store-level, brands are increasingly adding elements that can attract shoppers and engage their senses. However, the most successful efforts are those that can personally connect with customers, from allowing customers to “shop their way” to enabling them to design customized merchandise.

Such concepts will be front and center at this year’s SPECS Show 2019, March 3-5, at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas. Here, attendees will hear from experiential retail leaders including L’Occitane, Ulta, Lovepop and Total Wine & More, among other brands. (Click here to register for the conference.)

“The future of retail in one word is ‘experience,’” Macy’s chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette said during the annual NRF conference and Expo in New York City. “Customers have put us on notice, and we expect experiences will deliver lifetime value.”

While attending NRF, I got a birds-eye view into a variety of new retail experiences and concepts across the Big Apple. Here are just a few of my favorites:

-Nike’s House of Innovation. Nike’s New York City flagship blends physical services and digital features to create an experiential showcase. Once customers download the Nike app, they can scan a QR code on a mannequin, browse every single item on the display, and check merchandise size and color availability both in-store or online.

To bolster the fitting room experience, lighting can be adjusted to resemble a yoga studio, or basketball court, among other settings — enabling customers to better envision merchandise they are trying on. And a dedicated customization section enables customers to create cut-and-sew customized clothing.

-Nordstrom. This department store retailer is no stranger to personalizing the customer experience. However, Nordstrom takes efforts to a new level in its New York City-based men’s flagship, which opened in April.

“Retail is constantly evolving, and consumers want access to experiences — on their terms,” Shaye Anderson, director, program management, customer experience, Nordstrom, said at NRF.

In addition to complimentary personal stylists and customized tailoring services, the store personalizes any item with custom embroidery, and offers to press merchandise for free. To further meet the needs of the busy New York customer, Nordstrom offers a reserve online and try-on in-store service, as well as three-hour delivery anywhere in Manhattan.

Similar services could be on the way when Nordstrom opens its women’s store, “which is on the horizon this year,” Anderson added.

-Converse. In addition to featuring limited-edition sneakers and apparel, Converse’s flagship store located in the neighborhood of SoHo also boasts a full customization center. Sneakers designed from screen-printed textiles — right down to the laces — are completed and ready to wear within two hours. Kicks designed with customized fabrics are in shoppers’ hands within four weeks.

-Champion. Also location in SoHo, this store features an onsite customization department that allows customers to design Champion tailored apparel. The store also features an assortment comprised of exclusive merchandise, including localized collections made exclusively for the store, as well as limited edition collections based on exclusive designer partnerships.

If any experiences stood out during your own NRF store tours, we want to hear about them. Feel free to share them with me at [email protected].