Retail Revolution

(People walk through a shopping mall in Essen. Ina Fassbender / Reuters December 18, 2013)

Just as leaves naturally fall off trees in autumn and twilight arrives earlier each evening, so too do retailers gear up for holiday shopping sooner every year. And, just as there’s a cool change in the weather, major tremors are shifting and altering the retail landscape.
Like all living and breathing beings that stay still and don’t evolve, retail, that most common form of capitalism, is having to adapt.  Caught between what was once only a traditional, transactional storefront and the ever-rising form of e-commerce, savvy retail brands are aiming to inspire their consumers. They’re doing this by transitioning the simple and staid selling space into post-modern museums of Internet-influenced, pop art made out of mercantile girders and timber.
It’s all in an effort to answer the modern-day, sphinx-like question of “Why am I going to go into a store, if I can get that same product online and for less?”
The smart retailers have set off on a quest to discover the answer to this riddle and are finding at least three key clues along the way.
First: The consumer today is at the center of it all. No longer can retailers on Main Street simply hope to shove merchandise down what’s been their own one-way avenue. Customers today are armed with information in their hand and a distrustful attitude in their head. They’re more powerful than ever. They can see right through any sham that’s plastered over and masking their desired object.
Second: For the brick and mortar merchant, they only need to look and see the clear and present advantage they have—a physical space with nothing but potential to create a feast for the senses. They’re no longer competing with the shop across the street, but are competing with—everything. Yes, in a constantly on world, a retailer needs to know, really know, their consumer and create an experience that is designed around them all the while staying true to the core beliefs and essence of the brand.
Third: It’s a total experience. From the moment your customer walks in, if it’s not entertaining and fun, ask yourself, why would they want to hangout there? It’s not just about more and more merchandise, but about creating a space that can take the best aspects of the online world and bring them to life in a physical space.  And just as the online world is constantly evolving, your store’s expanse needs to change on a regular basis too.
Question: If you go to a museum and they have the same exhibit over and over and never alter it, wouldn’t it get boring after the third of fourth time? So here’s a solution for all that merchandise you have piled up and don’t know what to do with. Make something with it. Turn it into art.
For just as you can look around the area of your store and re-imagine the form it can potentially take, design the products to become part of the content—the colors interacting against your solid canvas.
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at [email protected] .