Judges of the Global Innovation Award (gia) for retail excellence said a more human approach to retailing is advancing.
The gia judges on a panel discussion inside the Innovation Theater during The Inspired Home Show 2023 were Wolfgang Gurschwitz (pictured above), who leads his design firm Gruschwitz GmbH; Scott Kohno, a restaurant executive who recently became a founder of EJL Entertainment; and Henrik Peter Reisby Nielsen, CEO and founder of Reisby Consult.
They agreed successful retailing in today’s world puts weight on entertaining, informing and establishing a sense of community.
The establishment of relationships that bring a smile to the faces of consumers entering the store is what counts. The panelists agreed retailers should consider establishing the kind of relationship with customers on which well-managed restaurants thrive. Customers have not abandoned physical retail, despite the rise of e-commerce, panelists agreed, pointing out that bringing joy to customers through the store visit is paramount.
Nielsen said the best retailers today work around a set of common considerations and practices including the idea of including kindness at the core of their operations and applying that sentiment not only to customers but to employees as well, given their central role in building relationships with shoppers. He advised us to be authentic and provide what’s promised without compromise with a principle of honesty and transparency. In addition, he said, be interesting in the visual sense but also by stocking goods that make customer lives better, livelier and easier
Gruschwitz pointed to a combination restaurant driving range and restaurant called Top Golf to make the point that any business that wants to entice consumers needs to provide them with an experience that satisfies modern sensibilities. Top Golf enlivens an activity that hasn’t been as popular as it once was with the chance to eat, drink and socialize and, so, make it more joyous. The example can be applied to retail, he said.
“Customers are coming all the time, and it’s not only because of the product but also the atmosphere,” Gruschwitz said.
He added that thinking of the customer’s human needs as if they were the retailer’s own puts store runners in a better position to delight shoppers. A store might bring greenery in and not just on the walls but through the sales space. He even cited the example of a store that operates a cafe in its garden area as one that demonstrates the ability to give consumers an experience that exceeds their need for purchases and provides deeper satisfaction.
Kohno noted that slowing growth of e-commerce didn’t mean that consumers were necessarily turning away from digital buying. He added, however, they’ve come to understand that it’s not their favorite way to shop for all products and occasions.
“Online is important but it’s not the whole answer,” Kohno said.
For physical stores, continual engagement is important to establishing and building trust even with today’s demanding customers: everything from positive employee interaction to small signs that provide information on each item can fulfill shopper expectations, Kohno said. “With friendliness, knowledge and a recognition that consumers want something special from music to dazzling displays to unique events can translate into gratifying experiences that build relationships.
“We have to be in the entertainment industry,” Kohno said. “We need to bring joy.”