“Create an experience first. A store second.”
The motto behind many of today’s luxury brands is changing. Companies in the fashion industry can no longer afford to solely rely on design to yield a profit. With the rise of technology, people need a reason to physically go to a store and shop, instead of simply purchasing online. In order to drive consumers into the store, many luxury retailers have shifted their company’s strategy towards curating an unforgettable visual experience that connects directly with consumers. In other words, today’s brands aim to create the most “Instagrammable” store possible.
How do these major labels provide a sensory experience that gets one into the store and offline? The answer lies at the heart of the concept store. Since consumers today are so reliant on the Internet, brands have a desire to mimic online experiences in person. While maintaining the image of the brand, the concept store offers unique, distinctive experiences that a consumer can only find when in the store. And of course, the moment it is shared with their hundreds of loyal social media followers.
Gucci hopped on the concept store bandwagon in 2018 when the brand opened their shop in SoHo. The brand pivoted away from their former prim-and-proper image and instead zeroed in on customer experience. Removing an intimidating barricade of security guards, consumers are now welcomed into an joyful environment in which sneakers and garments line the walls, and comfy sofas offer customers leisure. In an effort to further connect with their demographic, Gucci shoppers are provided with chic cat-ear headphones to watch the brand’s documentary playing on a projector in-store. Gucci encourages creativity by providing augmented reality and tablets for designing DIY bags in-store. Since Gucci curates such a special individual experience, consumers are driven to check out brick-and-mortar locations to see for themselves what the hype is all about.
Another prime example of the concept store is Glossier. After walking up a red-quartz staircase, consumers are met by knowledgeable and friendly employees sporting laboratory coats. Customers are given the opportunity to work one-on-one with employees to pick out and try on products suitable for them, allowing for a completely personalized and interactive experience. At the end of the Glossier adventure, a conveyor belt delivers the personally-picked-out products in a hot pink bubble-wrap toiletry bag. I could go on, but I’m sure you’ve seen it on your Instagram.
Besides the glitz, glam, and inevitable mirror selfies, the issue with the concept store is that they have become a point of attraction rather than a point of purchase. As the brand name grows and positive word of mouth spreads, consumers will come to these concept stores as tourists rather than as shoppers. However, even with this downside, the concept store still maintains its power as a major marketing tool.
Despite some customers walking out empty-handed, awareness for the brand is still stimulated by providing those customers with an unforgettable experience. It is now the brand’s job to redirect their empty-handed demographic, arguably a portion of consumers who are outside of their normal price point, to their website by providing price premiums and discounts. According to Shopify, “almost half (48%) of millennials shop in-store at least once per week. But those in-person shopping sessions don’t always lead to the checkout counter. Instead, they spur online buying”. Furthermore, according to Statista’s Luxury Goods Report, “online luxury sales are projected to grow at twice the market rate and capture 18% of all sales revenue by 2023”. It has become increasingly more evident as to why the concept store is so fundamental; a satisfactory in-store experience directly translates to online sales.
In this day and age, there are two ways to shop: we can shop online and buy a dress in less than a minute, or we can spend hours in a store taking in a visual experience. Emphasizing storytelling and unique customer experience on the forefront of today’s brands is crucial to gaining in-store action. Whether a consumer enters a store with the intent to shop or not, they are still provided with the uniquely curated experience each and every time. Talk of positive customer experiences will spread, and in turn, companies will see profits. What remains, is the question of if concept stores have been able to successfully redefine the retail apocalypse or will they just be another trending hashtag in your feed? Only time will tell.