Eva Pascoe | Digital Retailer

NY can be icy cold in the winter so with arctic wind swishing behind our ears, NRF2019 retail tech conference was deeply underwhelming (more about it next week) so what better afternoon than checking on the top 5 experience-led shops in the Big Apple. It was illuminating to see the magic tricks used by the top stores “to summon”  visitors into their shops Harry Potter-like. It’s tech but not as we know it.

Name not shame

Plastic is not fantastic anymore and any self-respecting New Yorker will be deeply embarrassed gulping their turmeric cinnamon latte from an environmentally unfriendly disposable coffee cup. Kate Spade  comes to the rescue, with their NY shop offering gorgeous  coffee tumblers, bpe free, phthalate free and even lead-free to be perfectly safe. The hot/and cold cup comes with delicious monograms with personalised colour to match. How did they know I love green?  Kate Spade NY shop has also fabulous wearable tech, with elegant black silicon straps for fitness trackers for contemporary types, and more typical gold rose for traditionalist amongst the runners. The unique interiors ensure the shop was full of instagramming customers and had a happy buzz about it. Way to go after a difficult year for the brand.

American Girl Store charms Grandma

Grandparents are the last US demographics that still likes choosing the gifts in-store, so with their dollar-power firmly in mind, American Girl Store has developed the top NY gift destination in Rockefeller Plaza . The store bets on name-power thru personalisation and interactive services, where American Doll in gazillion versions can be kitted out with her name printed on every garment, all monogrammed on site while you are waiting. The doll owner,  Grandma and the doll can all have the same hairdo  done in the hair saloon (pre-booked online). You can also book ear-piercing appointment for the dolls. Next, tattoo bar? 

Marie Kondo meets Muji

Muji UK

No, the eponymous “queen of minimalistic living” has not got a shop in NY yet, but if she did, it would have been Muji store in NY on Broadway.  Muji is totally on-message as Millennials trapped in shoe-box size New York apartments are all trying to store their stuff better to gain valuable living space. As Marie says, only keep what gives you joy, and she should as well add ‘in Mujii containers’.  Beigy and neutral storage boxes, plus lovely personalisation station, where pretty much everything sold in store can be embroidered onsite with your name- or for the font-loving hipsters, with a witty phrase like Too Much or Fuck Off (depending on the mood, with young New Yorkers it is usually the latter). 

Personalisation tech used well is a joy for city apartment dweller’s heart. Your space is supertight, but who wouldn’t feel warm with boxes, pillows or bedspread with your own personalised messages on them. Now Muji is expanding into Hotels so you can get the try-before-you-buy and experience the life well-storaged. Go Muji.

No humans in store please, we are men

Know your customer and you will not go wrong. Amazon knows it, as it cornered male shoppers (not many people know but Amazon has over 74% male customer). Nordstrom has figured it out too so new luxury menswear shop on 57th and Broadway is a success, not least as you can do all the shopping without having to talk to humans. Yay! It is psychologically proven men suffer stress while shopping, so Nordstrom offers self-service kiosk for express returns as well as  a screen-based shirts catalogue to browse and chose the exact fit with having to ask. If you want a suit, a digital screen can let you try a good selection virtually fitting it on your avatar using AR. The shop is super quiet, with Theatro system used for staff comms to spare the customers noise of old style store annoncements. You can wait for your Levi’s special monogram or a personalised patch (remember those…),  waff in and out in peace and do all the shopping you need just using self-service tech, as well as collect your online purchases too on 24/7 basis. Bliss. Nearly a year in existence, the store proved 10 out of 10 score on understanding male shopping psyche. 

Sounds of Sonos

Named after the god of sound (well not really but if the shoe fits) Sonos opened their first shop in NY  a couple of years ago and it is a real heaven for hi-end music listeners with the wallet to match their high expectations.  This cutting edge digital speakers company has been innovating with mesh networking and AES encryption all the way from 2005, now integrating Alexa so you can ask it to play any music in any rooms (classical music for your bathroom while annoying your teens sending them a sample of early Communards to their top floor bedroom). 

The store has multiple themed rooms so you can listen and experience how the music would sound in the kitchen, bathroom or living room. Each of those rooms typically has different percentage of flat or squishy surfaces, making comparisons in a generic room really hard so Sonos has worked out how to kit each room to resemble the acoustics in your own different spaces at home. Genius, even with their crazy prices it is a must to visit.

Bottom line: online is the future but there are pockets of “In Real Life” shops on the High Street that will not only survive but thrive on their deep knowledge of the customer. Technology can support  retail it but retailers would do well to remember: it’s the psychology, stupid.

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