First, we relied on physical stores to buy products. Then E-commerce took over, and the brick-and-mortar industry felt the shock. Brands like Toys “R” Us began shutting down hundreds of stores. The toy store giant even filed bankruptcy in 2017.
Lest you think that’s the end of the story, keep reading. Because something really interesting is happening right now.
E-commerce might have been the new, shiny toy for a while, but the fact remains: customers still buy products in stores. Software-powered retailer brand b8ta recognized this fact and developed its model of Retail as a Service in response.
What does that mean?
Brands fortunate enough to work with b8ta learn how to shift away from simply being a product-stuffed warehouse and toward creating positive customer experiences. Expect others to follow.
Toys “R” Us Take Two
Tru Kids Brands™ is now the owner of the Toys “R” Us brand, and it’s got big things planned. In addition to opening 70 stores this year in Asia, Europe, and India, the company has partnered with b8ta to reintroduce the brand in the US... with significant updates.
Starting with two stores, in Houston and Paramus, New Jersey, the Toys “R” Us brand will be centered around creating experiences for both children and parents. There will be fewer toys on display and for sale, as the brand focuses on curating the best products for its audience. Shoppers can try out products before buying, and there will be daily activities and events to lure them back for more. Shoppers can also visit different brand stations to drive learning through play embracing STEAM.
And don’t worry: Geoffrey ® the Giraffe is back, and will be available to play within the open play space in the stores.
Not only does this shift toward a more engaging experience benefit the shopper; the company also can leverage valuable shopper data to further customize that experience. It’s a win-win.
Brands Embracing Experiential Retail
Toys “R” Us isn’t the only brand that grasps the key role that experience now needs to play in retail. Beauty brand L'Occitane En Provence has reformulated its in-store experience to bring a little of Provence to your local mall. With stationary bikes set in front of a view of Provence and a virtual hot air balloon ride that can be "taken" while getting a hand massage, the brand hopes to stand out against others in the beauty space, both online and off.
Macy’s, who has also worked with b8ta, is testing out ways to get shoppers more involved with the merchandise. The Market, a shop-in-shop concept at Macy’s Herald Square flagship in New York City, is designed to provide a more hands-on experience with carefully curated products. The brand has also been leveraging data from its shopping experiments to better understand what customers want.
The Modern Retail Philosophy is Evolving
These examples perfectly encapsulate how modern retail is—or, at least, should—be focused. Shoppers can buy products online, but they crave experiences that connect them to a brand. It’s all about discovery and ease.
In addition to these newly reformulated retail experiences, technology can also enhance that customer relationship. Embracing technological capabilities like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) or even sending push notifications when a product is ready to pick up can not only make the shopping experience more enjoyable but also more time-efficient. Balance that with delivering a memorable in-store experience, and you have a winning combination.
The fact is: retail is changing. Brands that want to stay connected with their audience must adapt if they want to remain relevant.