Rethinking Retail: Reinvention Required, Even Without Silver Bullets or Magic Wands

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By Dave Bruno - 09/01/2017

For several years, “innovation” has been one of the hottest topics in retail. With so much change and disruption taking place all around, it’s easy to see why retailers have been so eager to find silver bullet solutions to their in-store traffic and market share woes.

We have seen numerous heritage brands completely rethink their brick-and-mortar strategy. Businesses from every corner of the retail industry are shedding stores, rethinking experiences, or at minimum, invest in innovation in attempts to keep pace with constantly escalating (and vacillating) shopper expectations.

Although we’ve seen brands like Rebecca Minkoff and Sephora successfully leverage investments in “stores of the future” and innovation centers, many brands are struggling to remain relevant with shoppers. This year, nearly 8,500 stores will shutter – a four-fold jump from 2016, according to 
Credit Suisse.

This indicates a significant gap between retailers’ eagerness to embrace new tools, technologies and tactics and their ability to convert these investments into experiences that draw – and keep – shoppers inside their stores. Despite their best efforts, most retailers have failed to fully capitalize on all that innovation has to offer.

Perhaps one reason for the struggle is that many of the retailers I talk to view innovation as a destination rather than a journey. And I believe that most retailers should be looking beyond investing in innovation for innovation’s sake: I believe that retail’s new destination must be reinvention. I think it’s time to think bigger and to whole-heartedly embrace the idea of reinventing the store experience.

However, simply deploying new technology in the store to momentarily capture shoppers’ fleeting attention is just not enough. Instead, retailers must rethink the entire experience. They must re-evaluate their brand promise, redefine the role their stores can play in helping to realize that promise for shoppers and, ultimately, rethink what types of store experiences they want to create.

Reinvention, I realize, is much — very much — easier said than done. Where does one even begin this daunting journey? In my opinion, the journey to reinvention must always start with the customer.

Getting inside shoppers’ heads — understanding what they want, need and expect — is the only way to discover the right path. Customer insights are the key to understanding if – and how much – your store experiences, need to change.

But I get it. Talk is cheap, and platitudes like “understand your customers” are nowhere near enough. Reinvention is difficult, and reinvention is risky. Small steps are much easier – and much less risky. To help retailers on the path to store reinvention, Aptos has partnered with industry thought leaders to investigate the journey. Through extensive research with numerous leading store experts, analysts and consultants, we have developed a robust library of insights and recommendations for all retailers considering experience reinvention.

Our mission is to help document and share what leading thinkers believe are the keys to modern brick-and-mortar success, and to create a collection of assets that can help guide retailers on their journey to reinvention.

To begin, we have created a tactical checklist that outlines the top considerations and to-dos for retail executives considering reinvention. Our checklist encompasses many facets of the journey, from brand evaluation to consumer behavior psychology and technology.

In the coming weeks, we will be releasing many more resources designed to support your journey in a meaningful and actionable way, including the introduction of a new podcast series that I am excited to be hosting…so be on the lookout for them soon.

I sincerely hope these assets add value to your process, and I hope to hear from you as you travel the road to experience reinvention.

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