Next to the ice cream counter was a 13-year-old boy slowly inching further and further away from his mom while scrolling through the latest photos on his iPhone. A sea of people and ghost plush toys named Snarky surrounded us. We admittedly were intrigued to stop by the Kith Treats store in the new Hudson Yards shopping mall because of its Lebron James flavored ice cream, but others were trickling out from behind closed doors of a ticketed area — Snark Park. The boy told us he had been waiting for months to be a part of this new experience by Snarkitecture, which combines museum-quality installations with exclusive retail. It certainly wasn’t just about the ice cream.
When thinking about shopping in America, it’s hard not to go straight to the importance of experience. Whether it’s collaborating with athletes and celebrities to delight your customers with treats or providing a gated, exclusive exhibit — the way that brands get people in the door has forever changed, and with good reason. As we’ve seen from the tsunami of mall closures across America, the convenience of a mall isn’t a driving force like it used to be thanks to Amazon and other direct-to-consumer online brands. To attract customers and build loyalty today, brands have to establish a connection that’s fueled both on and offline and goes beyond the products themselves.
As brands gear up for the 2019 holiday shopping season, here are a few technology trends impacting the shopping experience:
Made for Me: E-commerce subscription box services are mainstream, mostly due to a customer’s ability to try multiple products without a major monetary investment. But they’ve also helped fuel the move to personalization. Whether it be skincare or vitamins designed just for you or a virtual shopper that gets your style exactly right — retailers are focused on drilling down far beyond the age range and location of their customer — and instead to their exact desires. With AI and targeting efforts only improving, we’ll see retailers use technology to reach customers on a more personal level than ever, both in-store and online.
But is it Instagrammable? The in-store experience isn’t just about providing easily accessible products to people who are browsing or coming to the store with a product purchase in mind — it’s about making people wish they were there, too. For example, at the Hudson Yards mall just about everything is an Instagrammable experience — the artwork between storefronts, the brightly colored stores and entertainment on site — even a climbable landmark! FOMO is all too real for today’s shoppers.
Frictionless Checkout (Wherever & However): It’s no secret that checking out is one of the worst parts of shopping — online or in-store. In recent years, we’ve seen the industry make strides in-store with self-service checkouts and even Amazon paving the way for no checkout, just grab and go. In order to make the checkout process faster, retailers are going “cashless” and deploying mobile checkout stands throughout stores. During the busy holiday shopping season when in-store real estate is particularly precious, it’s likely to become an even more important strategy.
Yes, it’s only summer but it’s always a good time to think about the shopper experience. As we gear up for holiday shopping, what are your predictions for this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Plus, enjoy a few pictures from our trip to the Hudson Yards mall — it’s quite the place!