Four years ago, I was invited to Dallas to meet with the merchandising, marketing and store operations executives at what was then called “JCP” to discuss how Coca-Cola might be a part of JCP’s re-envisioned store concept – a store-within-a-store design with a central “square” and “streets” that conveyed shoppers through a unique, personalized and highly technology-enabled shopping experience. So unbelievably cool on paper.
Our team arrived at what appeared to be a closed, run-down shopping mall near downtown Dallas and were ushered into an old department store, up the well-worn escalators to a modern area with concrete floors, rows of white chairs, two flat screen televisions, SmartWater on tables next to a presenter’s podium, and small groups of industry and media executives huddled together all asking the same question…are we at an Apple event or a JCP store event?
Minutes later, Ron Johnson stepped onto the small stage, the lights dimmed and he began visioncasting the future of JCP – the future of retail. I (and we) were blown away. Excited. Interested. Engaged. Couldn’t wait to be a part of it.
After his closing remarks, the solid black curtains on each side of the stage were whisked open to present a “new” shopping space in front of us – a new shopping experience – curated with all of the design features and functions that would become the new JCP store. The color and lighting was like no other store I had seen, visited or shopped (although reminiscent of Apple store in some ways).
JCP would deliver a differentiated customer experience. It would deliver personalized interactions in store by leveraging Apple and Microsoft technology, RFID tags on apparel, and personalized accounts for ease of checkout. It would promote a social experience in store by providing environments (aka. The Square) structured to extend time in store while providing food (carts), beverage (Coca-Cola and Caribou) and holiday entertainment (Santa, etc), as well as services options for shoppers (e.g. hair salon).
JCP would leverage customer insights to know you and serve you as “you” in store – not you as a generic shopper. JCP would align their brand with marketing across media channels and bring the “JCP” brand to life in store. JCP would establish endless aisle visibility and access to products of any shape, size and color regardless of whether or not it was in stock in a specific store. For example, the Levi’s section included iPads on which shoppers could explore the product, review sizes, order different variations if not in store.
The retailer would eliminate cash wraps replacing them with self-check-out Microsoft Surface devices on which you placed your shopping bag full of items and paid with mobile payment via your SmartPhone. This was 2013.
Today, the priorities are nearly the same in retail. In fact, I reviewed a retail client proposal last month that included many of these same priorities. While JCP was not able to progress the concept in 2013 for a number of reasons, imagine the possibilities of bringing together a visionary, creative, and experience-centric leadership team like Ron’s in 2018, matched with the consumer desire for personalization, experience, and engagement and technology capabilities that exist today that did not exist just four years ago.
Here are a few thoughts to consider as you study retail trends in 2018: