Nike’s ‘App at Retail’ is just one recent example of how brands are leading with a mobile-first strategy for marketing, and in particular, are adapting their strategies to the tastes of younger generations, who tend to research deals and availability of products while browsing in-store.
Earlier in the year, we saw Amazon investing heavily in the cashier-less concept, by launching Amazon Go, one of the most cutting-edge examples of enhancing brick-and-mortar retail experiences. What is clear is that leading with strategies that put retail apps into stores, enabling them to be a real part of the in-store experience, and allowing the customers to engage with the brand, continues to be the most powerful way to retain customers and increase loyalty.
‘App at Retail’ is an enhanced mobile app which allows customers to look up whether their chosen product and size is in store, reserve it, and receive a push notification directly to their smartphone when their items are ready to be picked up, with some stores offering lockers to hold products until they arrive. NikePlus, or Nike premium members, are also rewarded with special products, discounts and partner rewards for shopping via the app, and are recognised by beacons as they walk into stores, and offered the best discounts. The app also allows customers to scan the barcodes to learn about products and look up sizes, colours and inventory information online, without requiring help from cashiers in-store.
In New York, in Nike’s flagship SoHo store, a basketball court has been installed on the top floor so that customers can test out shoes for themselves prior to purchase, a treadmill also sits in front of large screens that simulate outdoor runs, and there is a shoe customisation bar where Nike Air Force 1s can be fully personalised to the shopper. With such a fearless approach to driving new commerce and ecommerce opportunities, you have to admire the brand's commitment to first rate, experience-driven retail.
In beauty retail – the usual paradigm of experiential retail – speciality stores such as Sephora and Ulta are pioneering fresh in-store experiences and play-based retail. Equally, this is provoking a shift from the rest of the category to follow suit, with similar strategic efforts from drugstores, such as CVS and Walgreens, and department stores like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
So, as we continue to read “retail is dead”, as a headline, many brands are fighting the status quo, and putting pressure on traditional retail models. It is true that physical store numbers are dwindling - in 2017, there were an estimated 9,452 store closings, which is 53% higher than the during the downturn in 2008. However, while store closures continue, there are those who are fighting back – the Amazons and the Nikes of the world - who are integrating experiential retail and digital technologies into their current strategies, and challenging this market trend wholeheartedly.