Foregoing clicks and betting on bricks … What’s the story?

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5 Take aways from the STORY store on how to beat online e-tailers

When Amazon can offer you almost anything, as cheap as anywhere else, and deliver it to your door for free … what is the hope for the store? If retail is only about selling things at a price from a shelf, Amazon and e-tailers win hands down. Differentiate or Die … Circuit City, Borders and Radio Shack are all casualties of traditional stores that did not adapt. As many are rushing to sell online, there are some innovative new retail formats focused on radically changing the customer experience. One of the more innovative store concepts is called STORY found in Chelsea in NYC. STORY offers compelling “stories” of how to appeal to today’s omnichannel consumers with experiences they can’t get online.

Why this is important: Retailing has historically been product centric, focused on selling things. Today’s consumers are looking for stores and experiences that are bigger than the product itself, something ecommerce cannot easily provide.

A new store called STORY … so what’s their story?

There is a remarkable concept store in New York called STORY. It is unlike traditional bricks and mortar stores in so many ways. First, it has not even attempted to sell online. Instead, STORY is focusing on creating a unique, compelling customer experience in store.

STORY might best be described as a “mash-up” of a store, magazine, event and a gallery. The concept is to rebuild / reorganize the store from scratch based on a theme or story. “That means every four to eight weeks, STORY completely reinvents itself -from the design to the merchandise – with the goal of bringing to light a new theme, trend or issue.” If the “story” is about “Making”, then the STORY store is completely reorganized in such a way that consumers can have a hands-on experience making things.

Finding new ways to create and measure value creation

So, how did it get started? The “backstory” on STORY is that it started out as beta innovation, boutique, and concept store. It was founded by Rachel Shechtman, a former brand consultant who has worked with major brands like Kraft, TOMS shoes and Lincoln. Her idea was to create a retail store concept that would serve as a matchmaker between brands and consumers, with the emphasis on differentiated consumer experience.

     STORY focuses on “experience per square foot”

Traditional bricks and mortar stores were designed as showcases for selling things. The time honored metric for most retail stores has been sales per square foot. But, in today’s omnichannel world, “showrooming” (consumers shopping on phones in store) is siphoning away store sales. While STORY needs revenue to survive, the focus is on delivering extraordinary experiences that you can’t find elsewhere, so they can’t be “showroomed”.

5 Stories from STORY on how to thrive in an omnichannel world

The naysayers will quickly point out that STORY is unique, boutique store that cannot be scaled to traditional retail. Yes, STORY is a small boutique store of about 2,000 sq. ft. that can be rapidly transformed. And yes, STORY is located in a unique market of Chelsea in NYC. While the boutique concept may not completely scale to larger formats, there are at least 5 core principles that can be directly applied from the STORY to differentiate experience in traditional bricks and mortar stores.

  1. Build the consumer experience around something bigger than product

    Today’s consumers are extremely adept at finding products and comparing features. There are literally thousands of IoT advices available for purchase. What consumers can’t find online is what it means to have a connected lifestyle, and what it feels like to experience home automation that really works in real life.

  2. Curate products and brands that tell a story, and create an experience

    Brands typically “buy space” from retailers to merchandise their product lines. STORY has upended this product and brand centric approach by focusing on compelling stories that engage today’s consumers. It then curates the products and brands that fit the story.

    Story Store in NYC Story Store in NYC

    On the top, STORY store is configured around a Wellness theme with curated products to support a healthy living story. On the bottom, STORY was completed reorganized around an interactive theme where consumers could actually touch and make things in store.

  3. Reinvent the experience with new stories … regularly and often!

    How many times a year do you go to a museum? Things get boring without new themes and galleries. While large stores cannot afford to make over an entire floor every 6 weeks, they can create “Story Zones” that can be quickly changed out for new themes. These stories can in fact serve as pilots for both experiences, and revising product assortments.

  4. Create new opportunities to collaborate with brands to tell stories

    Traditional stores are organized by product categories grouping similar products on a shelf. While that was efficient for consumers when they compared features and prices in store, it is NOT an effective way to tell a story. STORY turns that upside down in their store merchandising. They look for brands that will collaborate and compliment stories they want to tell. The also look for brands who will expand the customer experience. For “His Story” in STORY, they enabled consumers to shave with Gillette products, definitely not something you can do online, or in most retail stores!

  5. Find ways to both create and measure value from the eyes of the consumers

    What is really interesting about the STORY store is how it is designed from the “inside out” to create value based upon experience. Not only does that attract customers, it also attracts brands who are willing to pay and sponsor the story narratives that they can’t create online or in traditional retail stores. Measuring “experience per square foot” may be difficult, but it is the ultimate metric of the power of STORY and its value proposition.

The innovators are recreating stores and stories for today’s consumers

The best retailers have strived to create stores that “stand out”. What has changed are today’s customers! They are just a search and a click away from buying “things” online cheaper and faster. STORY is all about creating stories that appeal in today’s era of the engaged consumer.

The future of the retail store lies in creating extraordinary experiences that you can’t find elsewhere, especially online Amazon!

And oh by the way, all of this is probably a huge reason why Amazon is now opening their own physical stores. They already are executing stores with highly curated assortments, with a huge focus on consumer experience. The “beast” from Seattle never sleeps!

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