05/27/2014 02:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Making the Retail Experience a Luxury in Its Own Right

As each new season greets retailers with a staggering number of shoppers choosing to shop online or via mobile as opposed to visiting stores, every retailer from small local boutiques to global superpowers has tried to keep up with the exploding demand for shopping online. However, in the past year, retailers and brands are understanding more and more the need to deliver a memorable in-store experience that elevates shopping to an activity in itself while strengthening the relationship between the consumer and the brand. This experience is integral in turning shoppers into clients that will stay loyal to your brand no matter what new channels technology may bring.


With Jennifer Hawkins and MYER CEO Bernie Brookes at the launch event at MYER Melbourne

About a year ago I did an interview with The Age for a story on retailers investing in their staff as a long-term strategy to deliver an experience so that customers feel there's a reason to go into the stores. In-depth training that goes beyond how to speak with customers and operate the cash register is a significant investment, but at the end of the day there has to be a major incentive for a woman to go into a department store and that is ultimately to leave feeling more beautiful than when she arrived. A top notch experience is a luxury in itself and it's the strongest advantage brick and mortar retailers have that no other channel can deliver.


A custom Napoleon Perdis installation at MYER Melbourne

On a recent trip to Greece, I had two ah-mazing service experiences in Athens that will inspire me for months! Sotris offers apparel for men and women from fresh, forward-thinking designers while Ensayar specializes in a customized mix of statement-making menswear. Of course the only factor stopping many shoppers from ordering the latest designs straight off Net-A-Porter is the service in store. I loved the specialist environment and the service went far beyond the typical luxury retail experience by knowing the customer and anticipating his likes and needs. This is the key to creating an experience that a customer will not soon forget.

This is especially true for small- to medium-sized brands. The right retail environment is one that provides an opportunity for a brand to shine and be respected and also allows the brand to tell its story and connect with consumers in a meaningful way. More and more, brands are finding that the masstige marketplace can dilute a brand's personality by failing to form that deeper relationship that keeps customers coming back. While that environment may initially reach the masses it doesn't allow a brand to grow and thrive.