We all know that retail is constantly changing, and smart retailers are evolving to keep customers engaged both on- and off-line. "Let’s Get Phygital: Retail in the Age of Instagram," was a recent seminar held at PROJECT New York’s N:OW Forums that explored today’s ever-changing omnichannel retail environment. Panelists included industry insiders like Highsnobiety’s managing director, Jeff Carvalho and editorial director, Jian DeLeon; Moda Operandi’s VP of fashion direction-men’s, Josh Peskowtiz; and Bodega’s co-founder Oliver Mak. The panelists discussed everything from experiential brick & mortar retail to how to take that experience online. Here are three things we learned from the experts.
(From left to right: Jeff Carvahlo, Highsnobiety; Jian DeLeon, Highsnobiety; Josh Peskowitz, Moda Operandi; Oliver Mak, Bodega. Photo by Hailey Howard.)
1) Physical store experiences need to be epic.
Physical stores can be a consumer’s first IRL experience with a brand. So, while consumers can research a lot about that brand online, the in-store experience is still a crucial way to foster brand loyalty. As Highsnobiety’s Jian DeLeon put it, “I’ve been a consumer for way longer than I’ve been in the industry, and for me, it’s Wayne’s World. Where that guitar…he’s visiting the guitar every day like it’s the homie he’s trying to free out of the store. And that’s sort of how I look at aspiration. Before I could buy Prada, I would visit the store, and its truest manifestation of the brand universe. And there is a notion of when you try on the clothes, you feel more engrained in the universe as well. Mostly, the younger generation has only ever seen most of the stuff online. And the last facet of physicality is retail.”
2) Social media channels like Instagram can support the physical store experience.
Bodega in Boston is a perfect example of how social media supports the in-store experience. Oliver Mak and his co-founders created a truly unique experience for consumers when they opened their doors back in 2006. From the outside, you find a fully functioning bodega, but if you know what you’re looking for, the right “door” takes you into a streetwear mecca. When they opened, social media didn’t exist in the way that it does today, so when asked whether consumers documenting that experience online has helped or hurt the experience for future shoppers, Mak affirms that it helped them.
He explains, “I think it adds to it because it adds awareness…Have you ever tried capturing the Grand Canyon in a photo? It’s just awe inspiring, all encompassing. There’s just so many things that don’t come through the screen. So, it raises awareness. Then once you come into the space—and you experience something that was meant to be performance art or installation art—and you connect with a community. It amplifies those things that you’re curious about and you’re curious about it because you saw it on that channel.
3) Whether in-store or online, retailers need to guide consumers on their path of discovery.
Even though consumers can research products and brands before they even step foot into a store or type a URL, the beauty of retail is the experience of discovering something you didn’t know you wanted. Explains Moda Operandi’s Josh Peskowitz, “There is still that nuance [of] leading people. I talk a lot about the idea of the older brother who puts you on. Where you already know that we’re having the same conversation—I know you know what it is, but here’s something a little further outside the realm or two standard deviations from what you would’ve expected.”
“To Josh’s point,” added DeLeon. “The stores I frequent and the buyers I respect don’t just reinforce what I already like, but they point me in a different direction. And it’s that act of discovery….”