5 Takeaways From GlobalShop 2018

11 04-2018
5 Takeaways From GlobalShop 2018

Emily Hamilton, brand marketing director at FRCH Design Worldwide, recaps the key themes from this year’s GlobalShop retail conference in Chicago

This year’s GlobalShop retail conference was typical in terms of show format, but the tone was notably different. Last year’s cautious optimism seemed to shed its polite facade and evolve into a grittier, determined defiance. No longer about if-or-how retail will change, the accepted mentality has now become: change or die. This sense of urgency was echoed in the conference hashtag #NotMyApocalypse. These five takeaways all reverberate the larger call to action for retailers and brands to be proactive in their evolution and not simply react to the changing landscape.

Fail fast, fail often

At the GlobalShop session “Innovation Town Hall,” leaders from Lowe’s, Samsung Next, Walmart and software-powered retailer b8ta discussed the subject of how to not only build, but sustain a successful innovation program. In addition to C-suite commitment and a devoted team, the importance of a fail-fast mentality was stressed. Retailers need to get comfortable putting out something that may not be perfect versus getting out nothing at all—innovation can always have iterations.

An AR feature from Lowe’s Innovation Labs. Photo: Lowe’s

The advice was for retailers to stop trying to design the perfect “Store of the Future” and test out a fresh perspective on the “Store of Today.” Don’t dismiss a trend outright; instead add it to your brand arsenal and identify opportunities to utilize it. Maybe it’s a pop-up for PR or a showroom to gain customer data—it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. Josh Shabtai from Lowe’s Innovation Labs made the point that if something they test doesn’t catch on, it’s simply back to the drawing board, but if a concept shows life, that’s when they promote it on a broader scale. Sometimes it’s just getting the credit for attempting to innovate that can change consumer perceptions.

Stop monetizing the product

As Phillip Raub, co-founder and CBO of b8ta, explained, physical retailers need to shift their focus from monetizing the product to monetizing the experience. Focus on what online retail can never replicate: the in-person interaction with your employees and your unique environment. Training staff is a key touchpoint—they are not only brand ambassadors but they should be product educators to your customers.

In the session “Inspiring Brand Loyalty, One Store at a Time,” Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer of Kendra Scott Tom Nolan talked about the number of events they have in-store. In 2017, the retailer hosted more than 10,000 events across all of their stores, raising money for local causes along the way. Retailers need to keep this event-focused mentality in mind when designing their space, selecting furniture over fixtures to create flexibility in order to better leverage square footage—and sell more than just product.

Blur the lines

The once defined boundaries between retail, hospitality, restaurant and workspace are starting to blur, both from a functional and offerings perspective. Today’s consumers think less in terms of channels and more about identifying brands that help solve a need. David Vilkama, Senior Director and Global Creative Design Lead at McDonald’s, shared how the brand’s restaurant design will greatly influence the workspace of the company’s new headquarters in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The focus will be on bringing the brand’s values and story to life through design, incorporating branded elements similar to those found in their restaurants. The idea is that McDonald’s is a holistic brand experience: whether you are an employee or a guest, every touchpoint should bring the brand to life.

Create a conversation

Conversations between brand and consumer can no longer be one-sided. Successful retailers will perfect the art of creating a dialogue with their consumers, celebrating a distinctive tone of voice and pulling back the curtain to allow for a level of transparency that acknowledges their highs as well as their lows. This more vulnerable side humanizes a brand, making them more relatable and meaningful to today’s consumers.

Forty-two days after opening their first physical store in New York, Everlane noticed some environmental issues that weren’t working for their employees and customers. Instead of quietly closing down or finding temporary solutions, the brand took to Instagram to announce all of the items one-by-one that they planned to change (and why), starting with the always-dirty-in-the-winter white flooring. Everlane brought attention to its flaws, made light of them and then addressed them. It’s this type of refreshing transparency and dialogue that keeps the brand’s 471k+ Instagram followers tuning in day after day.

Rethink the game

Retailers need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. The phrase “this is the way it’s always been done” is the new recipe for extinction. Embrace the notion that younger consumers are quicker to accept change—whether it’s a Snapchat filter or a pop-up shop, consumers are comfortable with temporary.

Retail concepts like b8ta or Water Tower Place’s concept shop, IRL, are giving new or online-only products a physical space to showcase hands-on functionality, while platforms like Appear Here are offering short-term storefront leasing, becoming the Airbnb of retail. There is no crystal ball for the future of retail, so brands need to be open to exploring new opportunities.

Just as traditional retail needs to change, GlobalShop too has recognized the need to shift. In 2019 the conference will return to Chicago in June, but this time it will team-up with Retail X, the largest RFID and e-commerce trade shows in the world, to provide a more a digital-focused approach to retail.

As Director of Brand Marketing at FRCH Design Worldwide, Emily Hamilton is responsible for driving brand awareness thorough the launch of multifunctional go-to brand marketing strategies, while bridging the gap between brand strategy and communication. Her fascination with retail trends propels her to uncover needs, desires, and opportunities in the industry to translate into actionable implications for brand experiences.

Lead Image: b8ta

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