Many of the biggest disruptors in brick-and-mortar retail are ecommerce brands that are opening physical stores—not the legacy retailers that have been in the space for years. eMarketer’s Tricia Carr spoke with Jim Cusson, president at retail branding agency Theory House, about why legacy retailers have had trouble catching up to these digital players, and what all retailers need to do to keep their stores relevant to shoppers.
eMarketer: What is the core challenge facing retailers today?
Jim Cusson: The retail landscape is undergoing historic change. Consolidation is sweeping the industry, and there are new players using technology innovation to reinvent the brick-and-mortar experience. The biggest challenge is that legacy retail models can’t evolve quickly enough. These retailers are facing urgent and sometimes complicated challenges, and they’re slow-moving.“The biggest challenge is that legacy retail models can’t evolve quickly enough.”
People talk about brick-and-mortar retail being dead—that’s absolutely not the case. There are great brands innovating in retail. They’re drawing an audience and developing meaningful relationships with shoppers. But most of them are disruptors, and they’re new to the space.
eMarketer: What factors make stores more attractive than ecommerce to today’s shoppers?
Cusson: Try as they might, retailers have yet to crack the code on the online shopping experience. They can give you price, they can give you choice, but it’s difficult to have a meaningful experience in an online transaction.
The physicality of brick-and-mortar retail [is what sets it apart]. Some shoppers still crave the physical touch and discovery that happens in the store. There is also a social aspect of shopping that’s still relevant to today’s consumer.
eMarketer: For those legacy retailers, what opportunities are there to improve the in-store experience?
Cusson: There’s an opportunity to employ technology to reduce friction in the shopping experience. I shop at Nordstrom Rack, and there are times when it’s very crowded during sales. They arm their employees with iPads so they can check you out anywhere in the store. It makes the experience a lot more pleasant, and you don’t have to wait in line.
Another opportunity is focusing on experience. I wear glasses, and I have traditionally shopped at a national eyeglasses chain, but I have converted to Warby Parker. They use technology to speed up the process, and my experience in the store follows me online.
Here’s an online retailer who has made the shift to brick-and-mortar, and they’re doing it better than retailers who have been doing it for decades. Warby Parker feels like they’re trying to develop a genuine relationship with shoppers, and some of the legacy retailers haven’t embraced that.