The answer appears to be no. Many retailers are embracing omni-channel in a token way. All too often the mindset is bricks and mortar + online + the brand, frequently the missing ingredient of ‘us’ the consumer. Retailers should act more like one of nature’s triumphs: the Chameleon. This fascinating animal is seamlessly and constantly responsive to its local environment and adapts to external factors in an incredibly agile way. It is one of nature’s most flexible and responsive creatures. Omni-channel requires a more flexible and Chameleon-like response to the consumer and the crucible for this interaction is the store space itself. The physical shop should be every bit as flexible as its digital counterpart and both should be mutually relevant to the consumer. Brands need to understand the relationship between physicaland digital experience better and allow themselves time to experiment, innovate and find what is right retailers need to be more “chameleon” In a world obsessed with separation it’s refreshing that retail at least supports an ecosystem fuelled by inclusivity and interaction.
I am of course referring to omni-channel. Here, borders cannot be closed, evolution cannot be halted and output should signpost the desires of future generations. But I have to ask, do retailers really understand how to fully exploit this dynamic ecosystem? within their own ecosystem so they can be flexible and responsive. Apple demonstrated this in 2001. The brand introduced collaborative side-by-side selling with passionate, knowledgeable staff who could respond to customers’ needs, demands and preferences. In essence the brand had created its own customer laboratory, a test bed where customer experience could be placed under the microscope. Since then we’ve seen most other retail sectors adopt the same key concepts. In a word, to be more Chameleon-like. But how many retailers have a store that allows for speedy reconfiguration in response to what shoppers actually want in that particular country, city or specific locality? Some have used a kit of parts approach whereby a new look store can ‘pop up’ through clever used of graphics and modular elements.
Foot Locker’s Sidestep brand, for example, is agile, collaborative, and happy to bury its ego. At the same time, it is able to reflect its core message, react with authenticity and evolve naturally within a unique brand ecosystem. Sidestep has created an engaging environment using storytelling, an ancient and universal form of immersion, as a base concept. The ‘style editor’ staff form an integral part of the experience by garnering feedback. This has allowed Foot Locker to experiment with content, adding and subtracting collateral and gaining feedback from the fiercely loyal customer base before committing to permanent stores. True brand immersion relies on authentic storytelling, skillful editing and the sharing of brand essence. It can be used both to reinforce the brand and to evolve it.
If you get the formula right it can be just as powerful in a Pop-up as a flagship. The only caveat is that the message has to be genuine. Some are getting it right and have understood the Chameleon concept totally, while others’ lack of adaptability and customer sensitivity makes them stick out like a sore thumb. Wherever you find yourself, the end goal should be to use your store as a learning environment, to reflect your customer’s thinking and desires and, most importantly, to be flexible and responsive with the knowledge you have gained. Being a Chameleon doesn’t mean losing sight of your brand truths. It means being able to reflect the thinking of your customers in the appearance and functionality of your store.