For our latest Retail Safari® excursions, our scouts visited several new retail concepts that meet the consumer’s preference for a quick trip but with innovative merchandising and experiential perks. What each of these store formats has in common: a small footprint where consumers can shop fast. Here’s what they get right about consumer expectations.
Retail is Downsizing. Which Experiences Make the Cut?
We know from our How America Shops® research that one of the biggest consumer behavior trends is shoppers prefer small formats so they can get in and out of the store faster. Yes, they’ll even sacrifice a breadth of selection if it means an easier trip. In response, retailers are using digital tools to expand the selection.
But how else can retailers strike that balance of ease and speed while engaging shoppers with rewarding customer experiences? We sent our Retail Safari® scouts into the field to find out.
Retail Safari® Checklist for Small Formats: Localize, Immerse, Digitize, Repeat
Based on our scout findings, what small, “next-generation” stores formats do super well is they understand local consumers and offer what is important to them, just like a local business does. They then immerse their shoppers in these localized experiences, complementing the goods with services that ease the trip, often by incorporating digital touchpoints.
How Ugg, Kohl’s and Bloomie’s Make the Cut
After exploring two new department store concepts and a brand pop-up, our scouts discovered smart spaces in “Next-Gen Department Stores & Brand Pop-Up Shops.” Here’s a peek at each.
Ugg Feel House lets shoppers “feel” the brand.
The fashion brand Ugg evidently did its market research and recognizes what matters to neighborhood customers of this Brooklyn pop-up, called Feel House. The 14,000-square-foot shop is as much a community space as a place to buy things. And it capitalizes on every inch of space by delivering a multi-sensory experience: In addition to cushioned, communal areas with wrap-around couches, Feel House includes signage encouraging self-expression, gallery installations by local artists and a custom scent inspired by Ugg’s home base of Southern California. Ugg extends the experience digitally via social media, from which tagged images can be bought.
Kohl’s tests a half size format.
In Tacoma, Washington, Kohl’s is testing merchandising and digital innovation at a 35,000-square-foot hub designed specifically for the regional consumer. The fashion selection is localized to the outdoorsy lifestyle that is popular in Tacoma, and is displayed in branded product pavilions that encourage customers focus. Compact staging areas in home décor help customers see and feel the quality of a new line and envision how the products might work together in their own homes. But in this small format, Kohl’s blends the in-store/online experience via QR codes that let customers “shop the full look” on Kohls.com. This small format promotes focus and ease, as do self-checkout and order pickup and return service stations. Yet in the same footprint, Kohl’s adheres to what it gets right at other locations, namely its Sephora store-within-store boutique and signage that acknowledges its price-conscious consumers.
Bloomie’s “little brown bags” some big ideas.
At this 22,000-square-foot concept in Fairfax, Virginia, the Bloomingdale’s spinoff, called Bloomie’s, runs on a smartly edited selection that mixes digital tools for convenience. Yet the store doesn’t scrimp on customer experience. There are cozy sitting areas and a popular cafe for refreshments. The smaller merchandise mix doesn’t compromise because it caters to the D.C. consumer. Still, Bloomie’s manages to refresh its tight selection via portable carts that showcase hot trends and surprising finds on a rotating basis – think organic dog treats. Other smart uses of space: A self-serve kiosk for online returns and a large digital-experience monitor, called the “Front Desk,” where customers can make appointments for styling sessions, alterations, delivery and other services.
These three facts, from our own How America Shops® surveys, support why these efforts work:
- Many shopping experiences start socially. 43% of Gen-Z consumers and 33% of Millennials shop on social media, a point Ugg reinforces by encouraging image-sharing.
- Yet discovering what’s new is made on foot. Two-thirds of shoppers discover what’s new in a store by browsing the shelves and displays.
- Which is why many purchases are made in-store. Nearly one-third of shoppers go into a store to shop more when picking up an online order at the store.
You Can Make Your Spaces Smarter, Too
Our retail scouts carry a checklist of innovations that elevate the in-store retail, brand and online shopper experience. Want to learn more about what checks the boxes in each of these areas? Visit our Retail Innovators and Shopper Research pages to see our latest How America Shops® study topics and Retail Safari® endeavors.