As a marketing consultant for MAGIC Marketweek, it was my pleasure to play a role in it’s programming and seminar series. Hands down, this past show’s most dynamic seminar was given by Jeremy Bergstein, co-founder of retail innovation firm, The Science Project. Their successes for clients, including Kate Spade, Gucci, Barney’s and Bloomingdales, come from their practice’s idea of “the theater of retail.” In his presentation, Bergstein guided seminar attendees through fascinating behavioral and emotional states, as well as interactive forces impacting the future of retail. The Science Project’s outlook on how retailers can successfully leverage technology in-store is very simple: interact, delight, entertain; give your customers a reason to shop.

As retail continues to feel the effects of technology on its online and in-store businesses, retailers realize that they must transform mediocre shopping experiences into something much grander and immersive. While many believe technology alone is the answer, Bergstein quickly points out that “the shopper’s journey is still about human fantasy.”

Using The Science Project’s work with Kate Spade as an example, we will take you through their “three pillars for retail success” in order to help you understand how your store can leverage technology and human emotion to drive product sales and build deeper relationships with your customers.

Watch Kate Spade’s Interactive Construction Barricades

Kate Spade partnered with The Science Project to help design their retail store fronts at certain mall locations that were still under construction. The first step in the project was opening its flagship store in New York City. The firm was asked to create buzz, connections and sales while their New York retail location was under construction. That buzz then needed to translate into the experience upon opening day.

Into the Store, Into the Story

For those of you who are store owners or have a retail space, it is important to create something simple for your customers that allows them to become a part of your brand story. From your window displays to your product tags to even your music selection, make the experience memorable and interactive. Starting a conversation with your customer and encouraging continued dialogue is crucial.

Kate Spade achieved this even before the store was open. The playful fashion brand transformed the construction barricade into an interactive shopping experience. Equipped with touch screens and product displays, passersby could browse products, place orders, and most importantly, start a conversation with the brand before they opened. Through story, Kate Spade captured attention and sales by creating an interesting and very unexpected experience for their awaiting customers.

Other retailers can accomplish this in a variety of ways that do not cost a fortune. Partnering with companies like Olapic, retailers can leverage user generated content from social media to help them tell their stories. As simple as placing iPads near your most popular items, Olapic can allow you to display photo galleries of your own customers styling your pieces they have uploaded with your hashtags. It is about celebrating your customers. You can take the conversation further by displaying recent blog posts, your brand’s Pinterest boards and playlists of your employees’ favorite tunes on your iPads and other in-store screens. Retailers are seeing massive in-store success when they create a fun space to allow their customers to strike a pose, hang out and even purchase quick bites.

Date Your Data

With the wealth of consumer information that retailers now possess, they are now able to analyze their successes, identify trends and improve business marketing efforts through data. While data is key to making experiential retail work, many people are skeptical about giving their information away. The Science Project knows this, so has created a workaround to get people engaged and answering questions in a fun way. For Kate Spade, the real return on investment came in the form of localized customer data. They asked quirky questions like like:

    • Do you like pancakes or picnics?
    • Do you like metallic shoes?
    • Do you like brights or pastels?
  • The brand learned that when you keep your questions fun and interesting, your customers will eagerly participate. The result was dynamic customer profiles. Kate Spade then had information to influence their in-store merchandising strategy, and better understood their customer for future local campaigns. “I will venture to guess that within the next 18 months, the majority of purchases will transact in this form, said Bergstein.”

    For retailers, creating incentives for getting customers can be achieved in various ways. Recently, retailers are using Beacon technology, sensors that are placed around the store in order to wirelessly locate, communicate, transact and deepen the relationship with customers. Beacon technology is surprisingly a relatively low cost, low friction way to gather data. First, you would select a partner like Claim It! or Swirl, install the beacons on a wall or countertop, and begin leveraging the power of Bluetooth to send targeted messages, personalized promotions and rewards to your customers. Whether your incentives are redeemed or not, you will unlock customer data that can play a critical role in future decisions such as pricing and demand forecasting.


    Bridge the Inspiration State with the Shopping State

    The “always on” nature of the internet has drastically pushed the promotional state that brands continually exist in online. Now brands are going to have to put real effort into getting the inspiration back online so it can carry into their retail stores. “You want to deepen your brand story so your customer can walk into your store with intent,” says Bergstein.

    With Kate Spade, they leveraged their signature branding on the construction front of the store, so the exterior surfaces were immediately transformed from a construction zone to an inspiration board. While Kate Spade branded digital catalogues were available for browsing, by offering personality and matchmaking quizzes, the brand was able to get passersby to engage with them, thus successfully draw them into the brand, naturally leading to inspired purchases and deeper connections. This is also they were able to convert them into customers.

    Digitally skinned, technologically equipped storefronts may not be feasible, but connecting with customers in inspiration states is. In order to do so, Bergstein advises that it is important to make a shopper part of your space. There are a variety of ways you can develop simple, visually based social campaigns that incorporates your new and existing customers into your story.

    “Retailers can easily bring customers into their store by leveraging technology that they may already have,” says Macala Wright. She continues:

    A retailer can purchase a monthly subscription to Tint or Tagboard, load a pre-designed social wall to a TV they already may have in-store connected to an iPad and show how customers style outfits, accessories or even home decor with their purchases. These services also have spots for custom branding where they can give customers further incentives to share. It is a simple formula that works at a baseline level. The platforms can also be used to create online community extensions on their retail websites. If they have e-commerce, they can then leverage a service like Olapic to merchandise and sell via those social images.

    Make the Theater of Retail Work for Your Store

    In the end, The Science Project’s “Theater of Retail” reminds us that human emotion is the main ingredient for retail success. As illustrated in our example with Kate Spade, focus on the emotional states of your customers first, and then determine the appropriate technology touchpoint.

    “We are always looking to find solutions to improve our overall customer experience,” said Mary Beech, Chief Marketing Officer at Kate Spade. “Often that solution is something digital, something interactive.” The takeaway is that you want to put the customer at the center of your universe, and infuse your brand story online, in-store and everywhere in between.

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