Advertising Week 2014

How to Craft a Shopping Experience That Beats the Web

Advertising Week Panel With Innovative Retailers

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Moderator Sophie Kelly with Rachel Shechtman, Alex Bell and Nikki Kaufman at their Advertising Week talk on retail.
Moderator Sophie Kelly with Rachel Shechtman, Alex Bell and Nikki Kaufman at their Advertising Week talk on retail.

With online retailers like Amazon competing for shoppers, creating a physical brand experience is more important than ever, an Advertising Week audience heard Thursday.

Consumers want more from brick-and-mortar stores than they can get online, where shopping is faster, easier and often cheaper, members of a panel on retail. They're looking for human interaction, said Rachel Shechtman, founder of Story, a boutique in Chelsea. "The future of retail is about entertainment and community," she said. "It's really about the surprise and delight factor."

Her shop, Story, experiments with retail as a media channel, and is managed like a magazine, according to Ms. Shechtman. It has sponsorships, like magazines have ads, and it's completely redone every few weeks with new products and designs. Most of the shop, Ms. Shechtman says, is pure experience, with a smaller portion where customers can shop.

Another New York-based retailer, Normal, runs its store like a factory. The Chelsea shop is lined with 3D printers, so customers can watch as purchases such as custom-fit headphones are made.

"It's bringing the future of manufacturing and the future of retail together in our space in Chelsea," said Nikki Kaufman, founder of Normal, who says most shoppers are "shocked" to see all the 3D printers in action. "I think it's about moments and experiences."

Personalization is another area where brick-and-mortar retail falls short, said Alex Bell, CEO of Signal 360, a proximity-marketing platform. It's "amazing and scary" how much websites know about consumers, but none of that translates to in-store experiences. "Retailers have to use that weaponry that's online, which is about data and personalization, to make it so that when you do go in the store, we can give you something else and we can make you come back," said Mr. Bell. He creates solutions to help brands reach customers who in the store -- to find them in the aisles and recommend products they might like.

Major brands have been slow to innovate to their physical spaces to build these types of experiences for shoppers. But some, like Nordstrom and Samsung, are catching on. "People are going to have to change," said Mr. Bell, "and we're going to be the outsiders that push them to change."

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