This Month In Retail: Disappearing Checkout Counters, Shop-In-Shop Benefits, and Sneakernomics 101


The world of retail is undergoing a massive overhaul and changing on a daily basis and let's be honest, as a retailer, it's hard to keep up with the latest trends, changes, and innovations about how consumers are shopping and how you can adapt as a result.

Which is why we've decided to curate a monthly roundup of the top retail posts from around the web that do an excellent job of helping merchants stay in the know when it comes to the future of retail.

These posts include a variety of publications, authors, and viewpoints to provide a 360-degree view of the retail landscape in the month of May. 

Here we go. 

1. "The Smart Way to Shrink Your Retail Store" via Bloomberg Businessweek

Retail space is getting more expensive by the day, so how is it that retailers can leverage the latest technological advancements and cut their rental costs as a result? The author in this article points out the fact that with with logistics getting faster and faster, retailers don't need as big a space for warehousing or storing inventory and so can afford to move to smaller retail spaces. 

Other solutions to offloading rental costs that are suggested include partnering with a complementary brand who could rent a kiosk or counter in the storefront, as well as taking a more experiential approach by allowing a service providing or expert to run workshops or set-up a tailoring corner for instance. 

The article quotes Bob Phibbs, a retail consultant at Retail Doctor, as follows, "Just-in-time delivery is now available from most anyone. Many retailers are paying for space they simply don't need."  

2. "The Future of Retail Checkout: No Checkout at All?" via The Atlantic 

This is how Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, describes the retail checkout experience of the future, "People have said when checkout is working really well, it will feel like stealing. You grab a pair of shoes and you just walk out."

The article describes a future when brick-and-mortar stores will have sensors placed around the store and items available for purchase with your payment information and your identity recognized through a smart device (phone, watch, etc...), so that when you exit the premise with an item, you'll be automatically charged.

Here's another quote selected from Stores, a trade magazine for retailers by M.V. Greene:

"The "Internet of Things," where objects in the physical world are connected to electronic virtual networks, is poised to turn retail on its head. Not since the introduction of online shopping – and before that credit and debit cards for purchasing – has something in retail had the potential to be so transformative." 

3. "Seeing Your Store as a Customer Would" via Retail Minded

As a retailer, being able to walk in your customer's shoes is a vital component of showcasing the necessary empathy to create the retail experience which will bring you sales in addition to repeat and loyal customers. This can be difficult to do when you're so used to looking at your store from a utility or operational persecutive trying to cut costs and increase sales per square footage.

But forgetting about how much you spent on signage, merchandising, and decor, and really putting yourself into the mindframe of your customer will allow you to uncover insights into what people feel and react to when they first walk into your store.

To help you with this, Nicole Reyhle has put together a list of 20 questions to ask yourself, here's a few of my favourites:

  • What merchandising areas are easy and welcoming to shop? 
  • What did it feel like when you first entered the store? Explain your emotional reaction, such as "welcoming," "claustrophobic," "engaging," "distracting," or anything else you may feel.
  • Do your walls need a fresh coat of paint? 

There's 17 more self-reflective questions where those came from that you should check out. 

4. "How Important Is Small Business to the U.S. Economy?" via National Retail Federation

According to this article, firms with 1-49 employees accounted for 40 percent of total net job growth in the third quarter of 2013, mirroring the 41 percent that large firms with 500 or more employees contributed. 

One of the most important insights highlighted was that small businesses are the largest retail employers in the U.S. economy, and make up for half of the employment market in retail as shown in the table below:

4.  "How Important Is Small Business to the U.S. Economy?"  via National Retail Federation

My favourite quote has to be the following:

"You cannot overlook the role of small businesses if you want to understand the current state of the U.S. economy. Never underestimate their power; small business owners are entrepreneurs and innovators, and, most importantly, support the vitality of our communities."

5. "How Shop-in-Shops Benefit Both Retailers and Brands" via KDM Blog

This follows along the same theme as the first article discussing strategies to shrink your retail store, and outlines benefits of the "store-within-a-store" concept where brands are setting up booths under their brands inside existing big-box retailers. However, the benefits the articles outlines could be equally applied to smaller retailers as well. 

Some of the benefits the post outlines are:

  • Breathe new life into a large retailer by offering these specialty shops
  • Consumer brands are able to create a larger presence in the store
  • Speciality shops can act as "pop ups" and create excitement around a product or brand

The post also highlights success stories to illustrate its point and mentions collaborations that include the likes of Sephora opening up shop in JCPenny stores, Samsung launching mini stores inside Best Buys, and Bonobos partnering with Nordstrom.

6. "Reshaping the Retail Store As A Powerful Weapon In Today's Highly Competitive Omnichannel World" via Retail TouchPoints

This guest post by Gary Lee from InReality looks at how the retail world can regain balance after being knocked off its feet from changes in consumer shopping behaviours, specifically looking at the connected consumer and how to incentivize them to come into the physical retail space.

His suggestion to retailers is that they must rediscover the "why, how, and wow" of their physical store for consumers, as in why their physical store positively impacts consumers, how it helps move them along the buying process, and what the unique "wow" is that can't be replicated. He sums up these three factors into what he terms the "customer experience" (CX). 

To help improve the CX for a particular retail store, he outlines the following three tactics:

  1. Leverage your CX project as a strategic move, not as just another marketing ploy
  2. Design intentionally, practically, and impactfully
  3. Measure, measure, then measure again

Read the post for a deep dive into each of the tactics and how you can put them to use for your own store.  

7. "How Digital Influences Your Retail Store's Sales" via Small Business Trends

This post covers and highlights the latest insights from Deloitte Digital's new study titled "The New Digital Divide," which sheds light on how mobile technology impacts in-store purchases. With 90 percent of U.S. retail sales still taking place in brick-and-motor settings, the study alludes to the fact that retailers can't afford to ignore the digital world for long.

Some interesting statistics from the study include:

  • Consumers using digital devices during the "path to purchase" are 40 percent more likely to actually buy something than those who don't
  • 84 percent of in-store shoppers use their computers or mobile devices either before or while visiting the store
  • 22 percent of respondents say they spend more as a result of digital interactions

You'll also learn how you can leverage those insights to build a better relationship with customers through what they've come to expect as omni-channel shoppers. 

8. "Sneakernomics: Are Sneakerheads Important?" via Forbes

We know a thing or two about sneakernomics here at Shopify, as some of our biggest omni-channel retailers who use both our ecommerce and POS software are the likes of KithNY, Packer Shoes, and NiceKicks.

This article does an excellent job of providing an in-depth intro to the cult of sneakerheads and their contributions to the retail sales of sneakers in addition to the the resale economy of limited edition sneakers they drive and command. 

Here is Matt Powell's, Forbes Contributor, definition of a sneakerhead:

"A formal definition of a sneakerhead is a person who collects trades and/or admires sneakers as a form of hobby. Sneakerheads, like most collectors, are passionate and dedicated to their subject.  Many are very knowledgeable about the origins and history of sneakers. Many spend a great deal of time and money studying the category and its past, while building their collections." 

9. "How to Predict the Future of Physical Retail in the Digital Age" via psfk

Retailers are reinventing their retail stores into warehouses and creating in-store experiences that leverage consumer's love for mobile technology. Author Jordy Leiser looks at the new "ship-from-store" model that companies like Best Buy and Macy's are trying out and the gains they've made in terms of online sales, with Macy's becoming the tenth largest internet company when it comes revenue. 

Leiser also looks at the other trend of brands creating immersive in-store experiences and looks at how Nike is leading the revolution, with tactics like placing treadmills in their windows to let customers tryout their sneakers before they buy. Overall, the article provides a great high-level look at how these two big trends are reshaping the retail landscape. 

10. "Holiday Shopping Trends: Mother's Day Vs. Father's Day" via Retail TouchPoints

Last but not least, I discovered through this infographic that Mother's Day is the second largest holiday in the U.S. bringing in $20 billion in retail sales, and with Father's Day just around the corner, retailers should start planning their father day's promotional strategy to make sure they cash-in on the craze.  

10.  "Holiday Shopping Trends: Mother's Day Vs. Father's Day"  via Retail TouchPoints 

What Stood Out to You About Retail in May?  

Which of these articles or other news-making stories about retail most intrigued you this past month? Let us know in the comments below and share how you think the future of retail will be impacted by them.

P.S. if you like this article, you'll love 10 Slideshare Presentations on the Future of Omni-Channel Retail and How a 107-Year-Old Sneaker Company Reinvented Its Business With Omni-Channel Retail

What Stood Out to You About Retail in May?  

About The Author

Humayun Khan is a Retail Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from him on Twitter and Google+.