And the privilege of listening to several industry leaders and – of great interest – a team of FIT’s top senior students, who presented their vision for the store of tomorrow.
Some common threads:
- We’re living in a world of digital screens – brands can either get on board or get left behind.
- Brand success is as much about effective storytelling as it is about product and operational efficiency. And the best brands tell their stories across the screens.
- When it comes to the millennial shopper, it’s about authenticity and trust.
And, of course, technology is the thread that runs through it all.
Jennifer Schmidt, Principal and leader of the Americas Apparel Fashion and Luxury practice at McKinsey & Company, emphasized the importance of storytelling in this important global segment. According to Ms. Schmidt, 50 percent of value creation in fashion and luxury is about perception – the ability of a brand to consistently deliver (in every facet of the business) a differentiating, conversation-building, relationship-building story.
(Those who joined Dr. Paula Payton’s NRF store tour in January will remember her emphasis on storytelling and narrative).
- Ms. Schmidt also spoke to three elements of import in her current strategy work:
- The change in the role of the store – which now shifts from solely emphasizing transactions to brand-building – and with 20-30% fewer doors than before;
- The change in retail formats – which, in developed world retailing, now take five different shapes: 1) flagship store, 2) free-standing format, 3) mini- and urban-free standing, 4) shops within shops and 5) outlet;
- The importance of international expansion, especially to the PRC and South Asia.
Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of online jewelry retailer Baublebar, also noted the importance of brand building – and she explained that her brand story is equal parts product and speed. Baublebar works on an eight-week production cycle, achieving previously unheard of turns in jewelry. Data is Ms. Yacobovsky’s friend – she tracks search engine results, web traffic and social media to drive merchandising decisions.
And, last but certainly not least: FIT seniors Rebeccah Amos, Julianne Lemon, Rachel Martin and Alison McDermott, winners of FIT’s Experience Design for Millennials Competition, opined on what makes the best brand experience for millennials. Their unequivocal answer – paired with a lot of good, solid retailing advice – was videos and music.
It’s not just about entertainment. It’s also an issue of trust and authenticity (does a brand’s playlist resonate with you?), which ultimately leads to brand stickiness.
Envision video – and lots of it. On enormous, in-store video walls, on mobile, hand-held devices and on brand YouTube channels. To display products virtually or provide information on how to wear or accessorize them. With in-store video, retailers can orchestrate, curate and simplify, giving shoppers a fast, trusted way to be on trend.
Music? The students suggested that every brand needs a music director. Brand-right soundtracks and playlists and connections to the right bands and music events can be powerful influences on today’s largest consumer group.
Quite the day.
Global Director, Retail Sales
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