NRF’s Big Show didn’t disappoint attendees with information on how, and in some cases why, the omni-shopper continues to transform the retail industry. And judging from the types of vendors on the exhibit hall floor, there is a huge supporting cast of characters churning on the data, gathering and analysis.
Although there doesn’t appear to be much buzz from Facilities Managers on how the industry is being revolutionized, speakers at the show (which drew more than 25,000 retailers from around the globe) repeatedly emphasized the importance of the store in the evolving strategy.
Tom Belk, CEO of retail department store Belk, speaking in New York to NRF audiences, outlined his company’s multi-prong strategy to use new technology to retain customers, along with multi-million dollar investments in branding and service excellence. However, Belk stressed the single greatest area of spend is taking place at the store level, for expansions and upgrades.
Other experts expounded on the ongoing value of the in-store experience. For instance, David Kepron, of Retail (r)Evolution, lauded Apple’s ability to attract more than 72 million people through its doors in the last quarter of 2012. Basically every person in the U.S. went to an Apple store last year, Kepron says “… because they help you solve problems on how you connect to the world and other people.”
“Stores, Kepron says, will never go away because they will remain as the conduit that embodies the connection between the brand and you and the people. The store is the place where it all connects. In stores, people are connecting to other people, asking for information to help them to make decisions. The store as a social connection place is more important than ever.”
“Stores provide memories and connections to people, things you can’t put in a shopping bag. These memories are right-brain experiences and are very powerful motivators. In a world where we have so much,” Kepron stresses, “we want something meaningful, a connection. Stores give us that. Retailers give us that.”
So, for all the hype around smart phones and online shopping, it seems success is still achieved by making sure the customers’ in-store experience continues to meet with expectations. This means facilities departments will need to remain intact and evolve to deliver the brand’s promise. And, of course, you’re still being relied upon to make it all happen, in the store.