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Shayna is a Boston marketer who loves data and Marketo. She currently works in Marketing at BookingBug and can usually be found eating sweets or running.

10 Lessons From Retail Leaders Who Are Rewriting the Playbook

The headlines blare nothing but bad news for retailing in the US. As ecommerce sales are booming, many of the nation’s largest retailers like Macy’s, Sears and Kmart are shutting stores. The news is not all negative as some retailers are delivering unique retail experiences that are completely captivating customers. Here are three examples of retail leaders who are rewriting the retail experience playbook, plus lessons you can learn from their triumphs.

Warby Parker "I don't think retail is dead. Mediocre retail experiences are dead." - Neil Blumenthal, CEO of Warby Parker

Warby Parker is a disruptive eyeglasses company headquartered in Philadelphia that was founded in 2010 and is now worth $1 billion. The company has 46 retail stores in the US and plans to open at least 25 brick-and-mortar locations this year. What is the secret to their success? Appealing to bookworms and others with authentic and low pressure retail experiences. Many of their stores look like libraries complete with reference desks, including the Greene Street location in New York City, the Gold Coast location in Chicago, and the M Street location in Washington, D.C., while their location on 25th Street in Miami has a whimsical pool-inspired motif.

Eataly “The opportunity to shop, eat and learn at the same time has made customers fall in love with Eataly. Before Eataly, there has never been a format that proposed these three activities in the same big place, open to everybody. In my opinion, this potential hadn’t yet been taken advantage of. Somebody needed to do so.” - Oscar Farinetti, CEO of Eataly

Farinetti opened the first Eataly location in 2007 on the site of a shuttered vermouth factory in Turin, Italy. Eataly (rhymes with Italy) provides an innovative food experience at its 34 locations around the world. These gigantic urban stores range in size from 25,000 square feet to over 60,000 square feet for their flagship store. From the Flatiron location in New York City to the Prudential Center location in Boston, each store has its own local character. With Eataly, the aim was to build a store that harked back to old-style markets such as the bazaars of Istanbul or the fish markets of Sicily. What is the secret to their success? These stores are — first and foremost — destinations. While one might go there just to pick up something quick, these stores suck you in with fantastic aromas, energetic employees and new delights around every corner. Ultimately, what Eataly is selling is education. Come and learn about food, wine and cooking.

Porsche “In the age of the digital revolution, real-life driving experiences are becoming increasingly important for our brand. Our cars represent performance and driving pleasure — and this is exactly what our customers can enjoy in the experience centres.” - Detlev von Platen, Member of the Executive Board responsible for Sales and Marketing at Porsche AG

Porsche has 189 showrooms in the US, but they wanted to offer their customers and prospects an experience that a typical automobile showroom couldn’t. Over the past year, Porsche has opened two new customer driving centers complete with a race track and over 100 vehicles; one in Atlanta and one in Los Angeles. At a cost of $60 million each, these driving centers are a driving enthusiast’s dream experience. Now, for as little as $300 an hour, you can get behind the wheel of a very expensive performance sports car.

Retail Recommendations: As we have seen in these superb examples, retail is most definitely not dead. Successful retailers strive to deliver fantastic in-person experiences that not only delight the consumer but educate them as well. These cutting-edge leaders combine technology with well-trained staff to deliver something completely opposite to what other retailers offer. As a retailer, there are many lessons you can learn from these examples.

  1. Authenticity: Warby Parker and Eataly are both very authentic brands and tell a story. Even if you have hundreds of stores, try to make each one little bit different. Offer unique products. Provide the unexpected.

  2. Create a destination location: People will come if you build it. Both Porsche and Eataly have created large destinations while Warby Parker has focused on smaller stores. No matter the size, people come from far distances to experience these brands in person. Share effective elements from the destination store with your other stores.

  3. Offer personal shopping: Any retailer can offer personal shopping. It can be part of your core offering or it can be an informal one, offered to just your best customers. BookingBug can make it easy for your customers to book personal shopping appointments.

  4. Create an event: Having in-store demonstrations of your best products are great to bring in your best customers.

  5. Get out of the store: Go to an event where your customers naturally congregate and create a pop-up store. Great examples include 5K runs and local fairs. If you aren’t sure which event to choose, ask your customers what they are doing this weekend.

  6. Education: All of our retail superstars focus on education. Include varied opportunities for learning, because your customers want to learn more, and they want to know what your company is passionate about. BookingBug can help you manage the class registration process.

  7. Group products by end goal: This grocery store makes bananas available in the cereal aisle. Such a simple fix that improves customer satisfaction. Do you have opportunities to create your own banana in the cereal aisle?

  8. Enable product usage: Can your customers use your products in store? Why not? REI offers climbing walls and Nike offers treadmills in their stores.

  9. Use technology: Incorporate social media and seamless integration between online and offline. Or step up the technology with augmented-reality 'dressing rooms' and retail touch screens.

  10. Speed: Physical retailers can definitely compete with online retailers on speed, since most online retailers need two to five days to ship. Use this to your advantage.

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