With big shifts coming to retail, it’s not hard to find brands thinking outside the box in hopes of stumbling on a new idea consumers will find fresh and exciting.
One such store attracting the attention of some very big players in the retail world is Story, a small boutique in New York City trying to redefine the relationship between customers and the brands they buy from.
Dubbed “ephemeral retail,” the model has been described as a kind of active marketing tool that treats a store’s products like branding content. To better understand how it works and why people are lining up to get inside, let’s dive a little deeper into the nuts and bolts.
Telling A Story To Make Your Brand Come Alive
Story’s owner Rachel Shechtman says the idea expands on what’s known as “retail media” by creating a space where unique promotion ideas mix with traditional shopping to create a new in-person experience shoppers haven’t seen before.
Comparing it to a magazine’s ability to tell a story through words and images, her idea gives brands the ability to tell their story through clever merchandising and in-person interactive events.
Each time a new company moves in, the store completely reinvents itself to embody the story that particular brand wants to tell. One of the biggest names to collaborate with Shechtman’s store is GE. Although one of the most recognizable brands around, customers rarely get to actually “go inside” the brand to see what GE is actually doing these days. Story let’s them do exactly that.
Their displays allowed customers to experiment with high-tech 3D printers and laser cutters––the tools used to make the products customers could browse among the interactive elements that moved the story along.
Beth Comstock, G.E’s chief marketing officer praised the new store concept in a recent New York Times piece saying, “There is a huge value for brands in having a place where you can experiment,” adding, “to have a lab that actually creates a profit and a recurring revenue stream, and gives people a good experience, there’s something really compelling about that.”
How You Can Benefit From “Ephemeral” Retail
While joining the line of companies contending for a chance to partner with Story is one option, there are some valuable lessons to be learned from their model.
In a retail environment where the power of traditional branding is fading from what it once was, it’s becoming essential even for well-established brands to reach out and show consumers an experience that goes beyond an attractive logo or catchy slogan.
Today, that means using the brick-and-mortar environment to show them what your brand is all about by engaging with it in person.
While Story’s success comes from its constant collaboration with other companies, you can start implementing pieces of their experience-based strategy in your own stores right now.
The First Steps Of Implementing Experience-First Retailing
The idea is to combine the company’s core principles and identity with the products and promotions customers value the most in order to create a story customers can use to understand your products and mission better.
This is where customer experience data plays a huge role. Start with evaluations tailored specifically to see what parts of the brand are making the biggest impressions––both positive and negative.
Using the results as a guide, you can craft your own retail story by highlighting the products shoppers love. If everyone boasts about the coffee beans you carry, for example, create an interactive in-store display showing the process behind growing, harvesting and processing the premium product.
Before the planning starts, however, the data needs to be as complete and accurate as possible. Mystery shopping programs reveal exactly what parts of your in-store experience are great, and which could use improvement. Using this knowledge, you’ll know exactly what products and promotions will resonate best with customers as they stumble upon them inside the store.