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An article in The New York Times this morning headlines that luxury brands, once wary of the web, are now embracing it. The most interesting piece is on Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer: “…high-end brands should go further in trying to give Web stores the rich texture of physical stores. ‘Whether they are walking into our store on Bond Street or tapping in from India or China, it’s about making sure the consumer is getting the same experience…’”
This resonates. Fluid’s philosophy on designing customer experience is that sometimes it’s good to go outside.
When you do, stop by REI’s Seattle flagship store in Seattle. A 3-story high climbing wall dominates the entry. There’s a rain room, a bike trail, a hiking boot test course, and a JanSport play treehouse swarming with marauding children. The interior design and finish details are rustic and rough-hewn, evoking a carefully architected outdoors experience.
Virgin Megastore in Hollywood has 100+ interactive kiosks that offer as much entertainment value as they do access to inventory. And it’s a great place to see bands. And, of course, there’s always Apple. You get the idea.
The point: these elements of the in-store experience are not about thrusting product at the consumer at every opportunity.
Rather, the objective is to create an “emotional moment” with the customer — immersive, uniquely branded and entertaining. Experiences designed to meaningfully connect with the customer. And, by doing so, foster a deeper relationship with the brand, a gratifying experience, and eventually more sales.
Most online retail sites aren’t especially fun. They are usable, clean and bright. Super functional, searchable, and safe. But compared with real-world shopping, they are sterile. Today’s e-commerce sites are like retail spaces 25 years ago: white boxes, bad lighting, uninspired fixtures. Products are well organized and findable but there’s not much retail therapy happening.
The evolution of the in-store experience will absolutely be echoed in the digital realm in one form or another and then taken further than it can be in the physical world. It is inevitable. The online store will soon be the ultimate “full price” flagship, a store experience fueled by interactivity and media, free from the constraints of square footage and physics.
Proof points: Fluid’s recent launches for Vera Wang Princess and Craftsman Customizable Tool Storage
Whether or not brands are ready to embrace this point of view, consumers are demanding it.