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What's Top-of-Mind for Retailers in 2020?

By Miller Zell
  • Retail
  • What's Top-of-Mind for Retailers in 2020?

While every retailer enters 2020 with a specific set of priorities and challenges, Miller Zell has been hearing six on a regular basis.

Priority #1: Elevate store design to be part of an experience

Our clients are focused on creating spaces that are updated, intuitive and comforting. The focus is on showcasing the brand at its best and connecting with shoppers personally.

While eCommerce is growing and will continue to do so, survey after survey shows that shoppers of all generations still frequent brick-and-mortar stores. But they won’t choose your store if your physical environment is lacking.

Not only is every shopper different, but their priorities also change each shopping trip. That means store design must anticipate all expectations of convenience while also creating dynamic customer experiences that engage, entertain and educate.

Loyalty is fragile. Great store design cultivates and hardens it.

Priority #2: Speed to market is critical with store refreshes

Our clients know that the old-school, incremental process of design, develop, prototype and rollout, often supported by uncertain logistics and project management, doesn’t work. Just ask all those once great legacy retailers stuck in bankruptcy.

It’s complicated and expensive to hire a series of outside vendors with specific specialties. It’s complicated and expensive to hire full-time employees to handle rollouts in-house. And it’s catastrophic to suffer through missed deadlines, uncertain workflow and meandering final execution.

Retail moves fast, and graphics campaigns, new décor, digital adoption and large-scale rollouts need to be precisely and efficiently managed and executed.

Our clients tell us over and over again that they are thrilled to collaborate with a partner who offers multiple capabilities and proven expertise in large-scale project management.

Priority #3: Brick-and-mortar must serve multiple purposes

It shouldn’t have been such a revelation that digitally native retailers now recognize the need for brick-and-mortar stores, and it’s not just about customer acquisition costs.

Stores do more than sell things. As in they must do more. Right now, we are collaborating with clients over strategic, efficient, productive ways to do more with expensive real estate.

This includes using stores as distribution networks, thereby bolstering the supply chain. It’s almost required now that retailers offer customers an opportunity to buy online and pickup in-store. A number of Miller Zell clients offer related services within a store, such as pharmacies that have in-store clinics or grocery stores that offer banking services.

Retailers must creatively and practically anticipate what their customers want, as well as what they might want but just don’t know it yet.

Finding traction with new initiatives might prove a challenging process. But it’s one that is necessary and can be successful if supported by data and strategic expertise.

Priority #4: Stop dabbling in digital and embrace it

Customers don’t deep think about online versus in-store shopping. Retailers therefore must break down their own distinctions and make their customer journeys about a frictionless integration of channels, not silos.

Our clients know that digital innovation is now foundational to the retail ecosystem. In response, our store designs blend digital into the environment as a fundamental, customer-focused attribute. There is no halfway. You don’t throw up a few digital kiosks or iPads in front of a display and hope static content is enough to look cutting edge.

This year, our clients are implementing digital retail solutions that will optimize the customer experience, support associates and eliminate friction along the path to purchase. Now their digital will be strategic and purposeful and part of an innovative and comprehensive approach to presenting their brands at their aspirational best.

Priority #5: Strategic category expansion as a way to differentiate customer-focused retailers

As previously noted, all generations still frequent brick-and-mortar stores, and many even prefer it. They like to see and touch products. They like to be surprised into an impulse buy.

In other words, merchandising still matters. The best retailers in 2020 know exceptional merchandising and category expansion is a good way to differentiate your stores from your competitors.

We are pursuing this strategy with our clients to keep categories customer-focused. Accurately anticipating customers’ wants and needs builds brand affinity.

For example, a big-box retailer or grocery store might partner with a pet groomer or clinic because so many of their customers own pets. Or a pharmacy might partner with a weight loss company, such as Walgreens and Jenny Craig.  Or a cell phone retailer might partner with a parental controls app.

The idea is to differentiate the store without overstretching into something that won’t connect with customers.

Priority #6: Engage customers by entertaining them with non-retail activity

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage,” and he was clearly anticipating retail in 2020.

All the retail buzzwords – disruption, differentiation, customer experience – lead to the notion of engaging customers in creative ways, which just so happens to be a core focus of Miller Zell.  Our clients know that you can build customer connections with activities beyond buying and selling.

That could include stores offering family movie nights or concerts. It could include instructional classes built around your products, or free barbecue on “customer appreciation” day, or a variety of initiatives to accommodate children while their parents' shop.

It’s all about gaining market share in non-typical ways.

Customers want to be served and engaged. They want convenience and cool experiences. And retailers who want to thrive in 2020 are listening and innovating accordingly. 

End-to-end branded environment services under one roof to craft the optimal customer experience wherever people gather, shop or learn.