The last two years of retail marketing have been a death spiral of sales tactics. Through the recession, retailers continued to dig deep holes in their pricing in an effort to attract the little cash left in their customers’ very shallow pockets. Thankfully, these unsustainable practices are ending for modern minded retailers. Even retailers like JC Penney are attempting to abandon —although somewhat unsuccessfully — the constant cycle of extreme discounts that large retailers have become known for. With a massive marketing effort, they’ve overhauled of their pricing structure twice during the past year.
Creative national retailers like J Crew are shifting emphasis to product story lines and social connections with design-minded shoppers and away from a cost-conscious conversation. Anthropologie is upping the game on their store atmosphere, including regular blogger-focused events for shoppers loyal to specific store locations and partnerships with like-minded small businesses. The location in The Grove in Los Angeles recently hosted an Artist-in-Resident project with artist Rebecca Rebouche. She painted and created in a pop up art studio in their front window for two weeks this summer. Rebecca discussed her experience on her blog and Anthropologie found excellent content for their social media accounts during the event.
This spring, Target launched their Shops concept, a set of shops within the Target store showcasing curated collections from six independent boutiques across the country. Although not as successful as their Missoni installation last year, The Shops created buzz
without desperately waving a red tag. It also attempted to connect with local-business-loving shoppers who are prevalent now more
than ever — a good move for Target.
I am hopeful that these campaigns, among many others, are an indication that the tide is turning permanently and the shopping
experience will return to what I’ve always enjoyed it as… an experience. Future value will be in developing quality communities that will continue to attract customers for the experience that they own in a space, rather than the extreme couponing that was accomplished. Creating an atmosphere where customers foster a relationship each time they visit will be vital. Residential space paired with commercial spaces will continue to see increased importance as customers make decisions about consumption by weighing heavily on their relationships with specific retail districts, communities and businesses.
The success of the Complete Street and Better Block concepts, both nationally and in Oklahoma City, reassures me that the public is ready to use their time and money in a modern retail environment. I’m even more encouraged when I view The Plaza District’s recent Popularise profiles for two vacant properties in their district. Popularise (popularise.com), a website that inserts public input into the development process, allows anyone (with a free Popularise account) to contribute new ideas, comment or encourage posted ideas with the click of a Build-It button. Oklahoma City is one of only three cities in the United States currently using this innovative platform. More than 40 business concepts were submitted for these two buildings in less than a week.
Whether designing new or reevaluating an existing space, think deeply about the experience the customer will have with your environment. How are you consciously creating an emotional connection with your customers?
These relationships will breed powerful customer loyalty and a competitive advantage.