In a recent article, consultant Doug Stephens outlines four purposes for brick-and-mortar retailers in an eCommerce era. He suggests retailers need to pick at least one of these purposes to remain relevant.
Here, I explore the purposes and add a fifth.
Stephens explains that retailers have always acted as a conduit to connect brands to consumer. By bridging this gap retailers create value for both sides, and thereby for themselves. But now, due to technology, brands can sell directly to consumers, becoming their own retailers. Consumers too, have an endless selection of pathways to research and purchase a product, whether online or in a physical store.
This leaves retailers with one of four ways to add value and remain relevant. In the current and future eras, merely providing product availability is no longer enough.
Here, I explain these purposes and add a fifth (hint: think convenience).
1/ Radical Cultural Value
These retailers have a clear point of view about their values; setting them apart from more generic retailers and making them a lightning rod for like-minded consumers. Patagonia, with their focus on sustainability, has unmistakable values that they promote through their stores and marketing.
Portland, OR outdoor equipment retailer Next Adventure offers the value of making outdoor experiences and camping, more accessible through providing low cost, pre-used camping equipment.
Whole Foods is another example, with their focus on offering sustainably produced foods with a minimum of artificial ingredients and processing. Attracting like-minded shoppers and employees.
2/ Radical Entertainment Value
These are retailers that offer shopping as an entertaining escape; ‘time well spent’ rather than a chore.
There are many that fall into this category; Powell’s Books, Portland OR, and The Strand bookstore in New York City would be examples of this; a vast selection of used and new books offers shopping as an entertaining diversion.
Well-run department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom still offer this type of experience, as do upscale food retailers like Bristol Farms, CA or Stew Leonard’s, CT.
And highly curated shopping malls like The Grove in Los Angeles provide an experiential escape bringing together brands with restaurants, entertainment and other experiences.
3/ Radical Expertise Value
A retailer can offer technical know-how, advice and expertise to shoppers. I recently purchased a bicycle from a regional bike store chain. The value of having the store personnel educate me on the different variables of purchasing a bike; performance, fit, maintenance etc. was the main reason for me to shop there. It would have been hard to obtain that type of expertise online.
Best Buy offers another example; they create value by providing a source of hands-on advice on electronics and technology purchases from informed sales staff.
Another example is my local computer store, Computer Renaissance. They provide an important source for expertise where you can quickly go to get a computer hardware or software problem resolved.
4/ Radical Product Design Value
These are retailers that design and create their own products, Apple being a prime example. In their brick-and-mortar stores, these retailers create an unparalleled experience that immerse the shopper in the brand and reinforce the brand promise.
Another example would be Trader Joe’s, where many of the unique food products offered can’t be found elsewhere, as they are manufactured and packaged directly for Trader Joe’s.
Store offerings by Direct-to-Consumer brands like Levi’s, Nike and Warby Parker also fit this category; they all offer a retail experience to support the uniqueness of their highly designed products.
To the above four purposes I add another; the oldest, legacy reason for stores to exist and in fact where the name ‘store’ originates. This is simply to offer a storehouse of commonly used products close to consumers – as in your local convenience store.
And because most Americans only decide what they’re having for dinner after 4pm on that very day, this important purpose for stores, especially for groceries, will long remain highly relevant.
By understanding these four purposes and carefully choosing how they add value, retailers can carve out their sphere of differentiation and find ways to remain relevant long into the future. For more ideas on omnichannel retail, read our book, ‘The Future of Omni-Channel Retail: Predictions in the Age of Amazon’.
Read Doug Stephens article here: