Physical Retailing: Eyeing A Strong Comeback

Revel Blog | Chris Lybeer | December 8, 2020 |

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Next up in Revel CSO Chris Lybeer’s thought leadership series includes his predictions around the future of physical retailing. As brick and mortar stores begin to reopen—often with temporary hours or reserved seating—Chris challenges retail shops to focus on the consumer experience more than ever before. Check back next month for more thoughts from Revel’s head of strategy. 

Physical Retail Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Different

Since March, I’ve had more cardboard boxes show up on my front porch than I care to admit. I’m sure plenty of others around the world have shared a similar experience. But although one-click online purchases typically result in the goods we want, when we want them, at our doorstep, we’re left with a void in the consumer journey. That void—being able to see and experience the goods we’re purchasing—has become even more noticeable in 2020.

Many of us temporarily switched to shopping online exclusively in response to the pandemic. More than ever before, businesses are investing in resources to help translate a positive in-store experience to an online ordering and delivery experience. I want to shift that narrative. I think it will be equally important to positively mirror your online ordering experience in-store once businesses reinstate normal hours and capacities.

So, what does that mean for the retail industry? I think the industry should expect pent up customer demands. Demands to touch, see and experience their purchases in a way eCommerce can’t offer. There is a big opportunity for creative concepts that provide that type of environment and experience to really shine. 

Taking Notes from Buff City Soap’s Experiential Retail Model 

Buff City Soap is a near perfect example of this concept in action. It is also one of Revel’s newest retail clients, specializing in handmade, plant-based soaps, skincare, and laundry products. Their experiential business model really impresses me. It is definitely one to watch as consumers eventually flock back to in-store shopping. Referring to themselves as a “soap makery,” their staff measures, pours, and cuts their soaps in-store daily. Customers have the chance to watch their soap purchase materialize in real time. It’s an experience that’s rare in retail today, and gives customers a good reason to return. 

Considering What’s Next for Retail 

I’m really looking forward to getting back into some of my favorite stores and trying out others that promote permanent post COVID-19 adaptations. What will YOUR business’s adaptive experience be? As the businesses around us continue to adapt and rethink how they operate, a pervasive question remains. That question is: which adaptations and investments will outlive COVID-19 and still meet consumer demands? I think creative, experiential business models will win.