Akron Northside Marketplace

I stumbled upon a really cool new neighborhood in Akron last night. The centerpiece is the Akron Northside Marketplace. The complex is adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Northside Station. Within easy walking distance of plentiful parking are a collection of shops, bars and restaurants. Anchored in the middle is a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

I attended a local food entrepreneurs meet up at the Countryside Conservancy’s Public Market. On my way out I briefly stopped upstairs to check out the community bar and shops. Many of the shops were open late. A sense of community is created with open seating, tv screens and tables where people can meet to exchange ideas, work or just share conversation over a few beers. Most of the shops appear to be smaller local start-ups and this space gives them the perfect leg up in starting out in the real world with brick and mortar retail.

Step out on the street and you can discover a nice environment decorated with holiday twinkle lights. Adjacent to the marketplace are fine dining and a wicked cool looking speakeasy. Above everything are condos that can be purchased in case one wants to live in the heart of it all. The entire complex has some elevation too so you get great views of the valley and city.

This is the experiential retail, food and hospitality spaces we need. And it’s all very well done. I’ve already made plans to visit again when I have more time, and bring my wife and friends for a night out.

Advertisements

“Buying Online, Picking Up In Store” Lockers Are Latest Tool In An Ever Changing Retail World

 

I came across Parcel Pending at Globalshop this year and was impressed with the quality solution they came up with in their storage locker product designed for “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” (BOPIS). The idea is you buy something online, travel over to your local store, and pick up your item. All while avoiding as much human contact as possible (if that’s your thing).

It’s hard these days to appease our innate hunter gatherer human desire for instant gratification awoken by a world that has us hooked on easy online shopping and short shipping times. BOPIS addresses our need for getting our hands on tangible items ASAP. At least it does until drones start dropping boxes of on our porch. Taken a step further, these lockers allow consistent in and out service so you don’t even have to wait for someone to help you at the store.

To recap we have:

  • traditional drive to brick and mortar store, hunt and peck
  • buy online, free shipping, often next day
  • check store inventory online, buy online or in store, pick up in store
  • buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS)

These are the primary shopping methods today. Someday we’ll have (or may not have) drone delivery, 3-D printers in our homes, and / or no one buying stuff anymore.

And you know what else is out there, right now? Order a bunch of stuff online and someone else does the shopping for you: “Curbside Express”

What a fantastic time to be alive and living in the wonderful world of retail.

This brave new world of shopping will utilize every tool at its disposal, mix them together and continue to invent new ones. Some brands will carve a niche in just one area and others will look to leverage several tools in a bid to win the most market share. Online is a great niche for startups because the overhead is so low and reach is great. Brick and mortar is perfect if your brand has a service or needs to explain products in a tangible manner. Hybrids of both online and in-store is where most brands fall, in an attempt to capture their audiences, manage inventory and selection. Quite frankly most humans are programed to shop both ways today.

What I love about these storage lockers is they connect shoppers, in a tangible way, to the bigger issue of retail today: inventory and distribution. First they taught us to shop in a warehouse. But now with fast shipping, or these lockers, why even go to a warehouse? In a warehouse I still have to go up and down aisles and wait in line. Plus I’m usually accosted by someone asking for a membership card at the start of my visit. Suddenly every store is a warehouse / distribution center.

Take all the warehouse / distribution space in the physical store and efficiently package it, basically close it off from consumers. Consumers can buy all their commodity items online (deodorant, memory cards, baked beans, batteries, etc.) and either have them shipped to their homes or they can BOPIS them. Now use your retail real estate in one of three ways:

  1. Get rid of it, you just need lockers (or drones), right? Become a micro-distribution center for your brand, or all the brands (e.g. Amazon).
  2. Focus on experiences, customer service and product research with “store-in-store” experiences that tell your brand story.
  3. New hybrid shopping experience where all the commodity stuff is out of the way and you can focus on impulse buys, promotions, seasonal, cross merchandising or curated collections, etc. while either reducing footprint or having your building work harder for you

The possibilities are endless. I can’t imagine a world where we just buy stuff online. There will always be a need for multiple shopping methods because our needs as consumers as well as brands and products are all so different. Versatile products like these self serve lockers work to enrich our options as shoppers and give all retailers and brands a much needed tool to craft meaningful, relevant and convenient shopping experiences.


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer with over 20 years experience designing compelling, shopper focused retail experiences for over 200 different brands. 

SaveSave

Worth A Damn In-Store Data & Interactive Is Finally Here

Last month I attended the large retail design industry trade show Global Shop in Chicago.  I don’t go every year because quite honestly, the retail industry is slow to come out with much new to look at. But it had been a few years, and it was in Chicago so I could drive out there. It was a great show this year, and I spotted a few things that have me thinking that physical retail is figuring out how to catch up to on-line’s primary advantages: interactivity and data.

The main advantage of online marketing and retailing is that you have access to data. You can see how someone found your website, where they came from, where they went, virtually every step of the shopping experience can be entered into a spreadsheet. There is a limitless supply of people who will help you mine that data and tell you how much to spend, and where to spend it to (hopefully) sell more stuff. With all this data, online marketing is a pretty easy equation. And easy equations mean less spend, more profit.

Physical retail is a bit trickier. Unless you’re actually interviewing guests, or having them fill out surveys, or you’re somehow able to connect people to receipts, it’s sort of messy and expensive to identify who’s in your stores and ultimately how to market to them. I don’t know of anyone who’s solved for this holistically. I’ve thought about it (way too much) and have few ideas primarily because 1) customer attitudes needed to change and 2) technology needed to catch up.

Just a few years ago “spying” on consumers, and asking them to pony up information was  impossible. But now in a world where our lives are on multiple, mostly public, social media sites and everyone is on the hunt for free wi-fi, consumers are more inclined to share high level data in exchange for something.

And even if we did want to find out more about guests in stores, the technology just wasn’t there for us to do so without a lot of effort, cost or intrusion. But now we have cameras, sensors, connections to mobile devices everywhere. And savvy consumers are okay with it.

Finally traditional retail can start to level the playing field with online retail.

As I walked to McCormick Place floor and thought about real multichannel retail marketing, four companies caught my eye at the show this year. Here is my take on why the work they are doing is important to tangible stores and keeping pace with online.

 

Data Display (http://www.dd-usa.com)

What it is: Using RFID technology, Data Displays (DD) displays can sense when a guest had picked up a product and can play a marketing message relevant to that product.

Why it’s important: The internet tracks everything you click on and provides information and makes recommendations based on that.  What DD is doing here is a big leap to usefully and proactively interacting with guests. No longer do I have to press a button to get info. This also gives real purpose to the video screens. They aren’t just for playing mindless advertising loops anymore. They now have a purpose and are an integral part of the sales process in store.

How to get it right: Make sure you have good, concise, engaging content on the video screen. Have a good maintenance and content strategy. NO BLANK SCREENS! Embellish the experience with subtle lighting cues and traditional graphics.

What’s next: I’d like to see technology that can track line of sight so we can capture guests who aren’t even picking products up, rather just window shopping, and share product information with them. Would be nice to gather demographic information as well as number of touches by product.

Parcel Pending (https://www.parcelpending.com)

What it is: Turn-key solution for “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) situations where customers can pick up products or parcels at their leisure, even after hours. Units are modular including refrigerated units. They are controlled by an interactive kiosk. Door pop open automatically after you enter in your data.

Why it’s important: This was the most exciting thing I saw, because I feel like the possibilities are endless. Grocery stores could use these to aid new online shopping experiences. The units are great for apartment buildings, adding more space and technology that can adapt – no longer one box per person, rather can be tailored to parcel size, on an “as needed” basis. These modular units can be part of the foundation for whole new retail experiences. They ultimately can free up store shelves, reduce real estate footprints, and really revolutionize retail as we know it. They are fully integrated to our online shopping habits already and can fulfill our need for instant gratification. And they can be treasure troves of data.

How to get it right: Work on your supply chain and challenge conventional thinking. Leverage their modularity and scalability to suite your business and geography. Leverage data collection to learn the demographics of who is using them and how. Vinyl wraps can let them stand out or fade into the background.

What’s next: I’d love to get my hands on these modules and build out a pop-up store solution, or solution for independent retailers to bring them into the 21st century. Refrigerated units combined with grocery store online ordering could revolution how we buy groceries. In general the store of the future will forego store shelves, have banks of these units and supplement them with impulse shopping opportunities or product and brand experiences. These could take convenience shopping to the next level and be bad news for traditional (and online) retail. A real game changer in the right hands.

 

 

Gable (https://gablecompany.com)

What it is: Digital signage, interactive media and architectural graphic elements.

Why it’s important: I was impressed by Gable’s fit and finish on their mall kiosk. The detailing was done well, and in retail, details do matter. Digital signage technology has grown by leaps and bounds, and there are a lot of players in this space. Digital signage and interactive is a great way to communicate a lot of information efficiently in real time.

How to get it right: Track how people are using your kiosks: where are they going, when are they using the unit, what are they interested in. Large format digital signage is ,very effective in any retail environment, at capturing short attention spans. You likely need to include something digital in your environment, make sure you have great content, it’s relevant and useful. Invest in creative and user experience, not just the technology. Make sure your form factors are on brand, and pay attention to details and quality.

What’s next: There is a lot of opportunity for style to factor into the design of digital displays. Modular LED panels allow limitless sizes to be created. Corners, columns, ceilings, floors…you can seemingly cover anything with digital signage. Interactive has the potential to give us the future we’ve always imagined. And the opposite of that is, can the tech recede into the background and we focus on content and stunning photography, and content generation.

Stratecache (https://www.stratacache.com/solutions/digital-signage/)

What it is: What is seemingly just digital signage is also content management, real time data management and content delivery. Stratecache’s digital signage can recognize guest demographics (e.g. male or female) and tailor marketing content deliver specific to the guest. Can connect with guests’ mobile devices. Their system can seamlessly network your brand content across all doors and update in real time.

Why it’s important: This is as close as you can get to an online experience at retail in terms of pushing out brand content, and taking in high level, actionable consumer data.

How to get it right: Assure consumers that their privacy is being maintained, while gathering insight into who is coming to your store. And while not specific to any one supplier or retailer, the idea of an op-in for wi-fi is a great way to have consumers voluntarily connect with you. From there you can start connecting the dots between consumer and behavior. Leverage tracking cameras to understand who is in your store and what are they looking at. Have relevant and accurate content ready to go so that once you recognize who’s in your store you’re pushing the right message at the right time in  the right place. Pretty simple, right?

What’s next: Yes, it’s like a sci-fi movie, but this is the world we live in. And there’s no reason physical retail shouldn’t be privy to the same data digital marketing has, within the bounds of consumer comfort. I’d like to see all of this technology coupled with register and online sales data. Some very smart people can then take all of this data and create a “world” of information that will give brands a realistic image of what retail looks like. And consumers will be delighted by tailored experiences. Less about stuff and more about ease. That’s when the fun starts.

 

In closing I’ll say a few things. First, I think physical retail is always going to be relevant. People simply like touching stuff. I don’t see how that ever goes away. Tech tools are coming into their own to help level the playing field of tangible experiences versus online experiences. And lastly, I think we are on the cusp of some massive changes in retail – the store of the future is going to look a lot different and I’m super excited to help shape it if I can.

What are your thoughts on the future of physical retail? What about these tech solutions I highlighted? Any others out there you like? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Cheers!

-Chris

 


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer and retail design consultant based in sunny (today at least) Ohio. No, he didn’t get paid, nor does he endorse these companies necessarily, rather they’re just good examples in his opinion based on what he was seeing at one trade show. The reality is being in retail is pretty freaking exciting and interesting. If you’d like to explore the future of retail for your business with Chris, give him a call at (330) 858-8926 (cell) today. Or you prefer he can be reached via email at chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Catch the Pokemon Wave

Seemingly out of nowhere Pokemon Go took over the world earlier this July. The free downloadable app was, and still is, the talk of social and news media. Turns out chasing imaginary creatures is getting everyone off of the couch and, for at least a moment or two, forgetting about elections, violence and all the bills they have to pay. It’s basically like a much welcome break from reality during a very hot and tiresome summer here in the U.S.

The app was launch without much anticipation or fanfare, but none the less has resulted in big bucks for Nintendo, the parent company that owns the Pokemon brand. Their evaluation was up way over 25%, or $11 billion (that’s with a “b”) in just a week according to an article on qz.com. Even if you don’t believe what they say as far as valuation goes, there is no denying the initial impact of the app on our short attention span society.

How long will the party last? Who knows. But what can and should you do to make the best of an incredible situation?

Merchants Seize the Opportunity

Not surprisingly, savvy merchants are taking advantage of everyone getting off of their couches and getting out to find imaginary creatures in our cities, towns and parks. A pizza shop in Long Island spent $10 on “lures” to lure Pokemon, and the people looking to capture Pokemon, to their shop and their sales were up 75% over the weekend.

Soon merchants will be able to sponsor their location to attract even more customers.

The beauty of the app is it’s getting people of every demographic off the couch and out into society looking for these critters. Families are putting down the iPads and wanting to go on hikes, or visit downtown to find Pokemon. Business people are taking a few minutes at lunch or before work exploring to find Pokemon. And when people are exploring, they get hungry, thirsty and want to visit your store.

A Spearow by Starbucks? Why yes, I’ll stop in for a latte.

Take Advantage of the Pokemon Go Trend

In the game there are “PokeStops” where gamers can get much needed enhancements to the game. As a merchant, download the app and figure out where the closest PokeStop is to you. If you’re lucky your venue may even be one, which should already be attracting people. In our town there are several churches and businesses that are PokeStops or PokeGyms.

As mentioned, it doesn’t cost much to “lure” Pokemon and their explorers to your shop. You get a couple free lures when you sign up, and additional ones only cost a few dollars and last for a half hour. Spread the word on social media that you dropped a lure and wait for customers.

Once there, be creative with how you seize the Pokemon phenomenon. Tout your business as “Pokemon Central” by offering provisions for explorers – water, food, licensed product. Maybe make it social by starting a club or offering discounts for people who’ve found certain Pokemon. Create photo ops for people to take pictures with their yet to be captured Pokemon in front of your store.

Missed the Wave?

No idea what Pokemon Go is, or you missed it completely? No worries, in our short attention span society there will surely be another app, event or trend that you can seize to amp up your bottom line.

Take the time to be aware of trends as they happen. Regularly read the news, and pay attention to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to hear what people are talking about. Observe you customers and talk to them to find out what they’re interested in.

My family didn’t pick up on Pokemon Go until three days into it, by then it was on the mainstream media. But there is still plenty of life in the trend cycle for Pokemon Go as they add features and improve the app.

Even if you missed it, establish habits now for how your business will react to social trends in order to enhance your bottom line. Trend watching is just as important as inventory, customer service and pricing for your business. With good habits and creativity you may be discovering some happy additions to your bottom line by year’s end.

In the meantime I think there’s a Rattata in the office that needs to be caught…

-Chris


When not out looking for Pokemon, Chris Weigand is an industrial designer specializing in branding and retail design. As president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, Chris and his team help some of the largest brands and retailers in the world, as well as independents, local and start-ups connect with customers out in the marketplace. Contact Chris today at (330) 858-8926 or chris@chrisweiganddeisgn.com to find out how he can help your brand seize upon the latest trends influencing the marketplace.

Retail Resolutions for 2015

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

Ten Retail New Year’s Resolutions You Can Make in 2015

It’s that fun time of year when we enjoy making lists for the new year. All the stuff we’re going to do, not do, or do better now that we’ve got a clean slate. I’m not immune from list making, so I thought I’d share ten retail related things I think are worth doing in 2015, to help make your retail experience the best it can be. They may not be monumental, or even new, but they are worth considering in the new year (every year really).

1) Create A Website For Your Business

I don’t care if you’re a name brand, a local shop or a plumber: you need an online presence. There are plenty of DIY website providers that have simple to use templates. Often they can host your site, provide you with a domain name, and an email address. For less than a couple hundred dollars a year, everyone will be able to find you, learn about your business, and know how to get in contact with you. Get at least one page up on the internet with your information. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. If you still don’t want to be bothered, sites like Facebook allow you to set up an online presence basically for free.

2) Start A Store 

Are you selling online? Take a stab with a physical retail space. Pop-up stores are becoming ubiquitous. These little temporary shops can be rented for short periods of time, sometimes for the day, and are usually found in high traffic areas that are favored by hip young shoppers. Often all you’ll need is your product, some in store marketing (i.e. signs) and your sales hat. Check out websites such as The Store Front to get started.

Do you have a physical store? Add a shop to your website, or get a free or  low-cost shop online on sites like Etsy (for art, antiques and crafts) where you can sell your goods.

3) Define Your Brand

Whether you’re new or you’ve been selling for a while now, try to take a look (or hire someone to take an unbiased look) at your business and your brand. Why do you exist? Answer that and then let that guide every decision you make about your retail business. And throw out anything that doesn’t add value to your answer; everything that does not contribute to your purpose. Understand your strengths compared to your competition and leverage those. Don’t be something you’re not. Customers want products from brands who have a clear vision of who they are. Insert obligatory Apple or Nike example here.

4) Omni-channel Sync

You’ve got a brand, your store and an online presence. That’s a good omni-channel retail experience. Now sync them all. Make sure your message is consistent, consistent, consistent…at every touch point consumers have with you. And constantly examine and rework any areas that are falling short. If you don’t have the time, then hire an expert in retail design, search engine optimization, graphic or web design to help you out. Subconsciously consumers can tell when you’re sending mixed signals, which can translate to lost sales.

5) Understand Your Customer

Consumers change whether you like it or not. Even if you have a highly specialized customer base that you think is impervious to the changing world, it is still important to make sure you understand their wants and needs. Advances in technology now allow customers to shop from any store in the world. Even die-hard loyal customers will peek around every once in a while just to make sure they’re getting what they want. Leave nothing to chance. Identify customer needs and provide top-notch customer service and goods. If you need help researching customers, market and trends, there are a plethora of professional resources out there that specialize in retail research. And don’t be afraid to go in a new direction if that is what your retail business demands.

6) De-clutter 

Yes, everyone loves the charm of hunting and pecking through an antique store. But unless you’re an antique store take a look at your retail environment and try to straighten things up a bit. Last year I was in a clothing shop and I could barely move between fixtures places a foot apart. It drove me crazy just being in the store. Yes some customers don’t mind, but then why even bother with all the fancy displays and fixtures; why not just put out cardboard boxes for them to rummage through? That would save you a lot of money.

Using your brand mission as a guide look at every element: fixtures, signage, props, product, way finding. Make sure everything speaks to your overarching message, but also make sure guests can navigate and shop in a clear, fun, rewarding manner. For example, if you’re stuck with an eclectic collection of metal fixtures, paint them all the same color to create some consistency. Create aisles that can be navigated at the very least. The retail experience is why you’re selling your items in a store instead of from a shoebox on the sidewalk. Good design, a good retail experience, does not cost any more than a dismal experience, and it will make you more money in the long run. Know when to bring in outside help if necessary. It’s not always a DIY type of project.

7) Get Flexible

You need tools that work for you in your retail space. While it’s fun to peruse catalogs, or buy props, simplify your display and fixture offering by utilizing flexible merchandising systems. Typically they share parts, are easy to tailor to your changing retail landscape (once you figure out how they go together) and they help give some consistency to your visual merchandising. Even if you’re using all found objects, use items that can be used in a variety of ways. A crate that can be a table, box or seat maybe. And if you can swing for new fixtures, make sure they all use the same accessories so you can mix up your merchandising as the year progresses. Modular display systems should be “updatable” as well, so as styles change you can switch wood tones, graphics or color accents.

8) Amp Up Visual Impact

Graphics (i.e. signage) is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to amp up your retail experience. Large format graphics attract from far away. Good way finding helps guests find departments and products. A consistent signage package is an extension of your brand message. You can now direct print onto virtually any substrate including wood and glass. And printing has become very environmentally sustainable. As a subset of visual impact, if you don’t want a ton of signs in your store, utilize awesome store window displays, and props to get your message across. Lastly, let your product and it’s packaging sing. No need for the display to fight the product or retail experience.

9) Store Within A Store

Creating a boutique retail experience has always been a great way to generate interest and help guests navigate. A large percentages of our projects are these types of projects. Pick a brand in your store, such as a purse manufacturer if you’re running an apparel store, and allocate a specific area for that product. Amp it up with special displays, flooring, lighting, and signage. And feel free to change these areas out seasonally or tailer areas for different brands. Go to any big box or department store (such as JC Penny with their in house Sephora shop) and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Regardless of your store size, and even if you’re only on-line, you can set up an enriching store within a store experience.

10) Have Fun

Ultimately figure out why you’re in retail and pursue the things that make you and your customers happy. Try different things. Challenge conventional thinking. And have fun.

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a full service retail design agency that specializes in designing interiors, displays, fixtures, packaging and graphics for retail stores. They also provide expert retail market research and environmental sustainability consultation services. Chris has designed retail solutions for retailers such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and product companies including American Greetings, Valspar, Step2, Flambeau Products, and Energizer.

No project is too large or small. We add value to your business through design expertise, and provided you with the expertise you need, allowing you to focus on your business. Contact us today at (330) 858-8926 or visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information

We do not endorse any companies or products mentioned on our design blog. They are for reference purposes only. Utilized goods and services from these companies at your own risk. Happy new year.