How Experiences, Personalization, and Mobile are Changing the Way we Shop

Not a week goes by that we don’t read another story that predicts the oncoming retail apocalypse.

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For every three articles spelling the death of retail, we find a compelling story about someone stepping up to the challenges.

Jill Renslow, the SVP for business development at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota is the perfect example. In some ways, this 25-year-old icon is a mecca of American shopping. It’s weathered economic malaise and has just completed a $325 million renovation a few years ago that have brought changes to the mall.

On opening day, August 11, 1992, 150,000 visited Mall of America. Photograph courtesy of Mall of America

Jill was recently featured in an article from Fast Company (along with a slew of other Minneapolis locales) about the retailers who are working hard to ‘zag when Amazon zigs.’ For all that Amazon does to dominate the retail landscape, there are opportunities for brick-and-mortar and box retailers to do things differently in order to stand out. That’s why we’ve seen such a shift in experiences becoming part of the in-store shopping dynamic. Personalization is another key asset that retailers have seized upon -- knowing when and where to reach out, and having a feeling that they understand your needs in order to fulfill orders.

For the Mall of America, that means rethinking the traditional retail experience. Jill has experimented with different leasing options that allow pop-up stores to bring their goods into the mall, perfect for temporary holiday presence. She strongly believes that retailers can bring shoppers back into brick-and-mortar and the experiences that can be found and the intriguing new retailers and concepts popping up at the Mall of America are proof.

That same article explored other interesting developments happening in Minneapolis, from visits with executives at Target to the owners of independent boutiques. Even without Amazon, more than 90% of the retail orders need to be fulfilled by other companies, whether that’s eCommerce startups like Bonobos and Stitch Fix, or big box stalwarts like Target.

Fast Company met with executives to learn how Target has struck gold with their multi-billion dollar label Cat & Jack -- and if you are the parent of a toddler, you are very familiar. With the surprising success of the brand -- it’s accounted for $2.1 billion in the last 12 months -- you get the sense that Target has discovered not just a clothing line, but a brand that stirs memories of the types of work they did in the early 2000s, items designed and developed in-house and that are immediately distinguished from other competitors.

In the age of Amazon, that’s an important distinction -- what can Target do that Amazon can’t? Today, it’s all about making personal connections to consumers.

From the independent side of things, Fast Company visited with a local business, MartinPatrick3 in the hip North Loop District. More than any other retailer that they encountered on their journey to pen the long-form article, few were doing the things happening at the 15,000 square foot mecca to boutique shopping. Words don’t quite do this place justice. Scrolling through their Yelp reviews, you encounter guests who mention the attention to detail and customer service. Many of the reviews rave about the “experience” they feel shopping there.

That explains their success -- along the way, they’ve broken some traditional rules of retail: they aren’t afraid to have sales personnel counsel and steer customers away from goods in an effort to match them with the best, most authentic gear. They also ditched their eCommerce site with the goal of keeping people shopping in their physical store and do what retailers used to do -- build lasting relationships with customers designed to portray honesty and keep customers coming back. Whether or not people buy anything doesn’t matter -- there’s plenty to do in the store from sipping champagne in the VIP lounge to getting a haircut at the in-store barber stylist.

Yet, despite all of that, their self-financed businesses keeps growing and beating sales expectations.

2017 Holiday Shopping by the Numbers

Speaking of expectations, for American retail, it doesn’t get much bigger than the weekend following Thanksgiving.

In the span of just a few days, Americans have ample opportunities to prepare and shop for the coming Christmas holiday. Traditionally, that’s meant waiting in lines and rushing into big-box retailers to snap up the hottest electronic gadgets and toys to appease the most difficult shopper.

Lately, as American retail continues to undergo dynamic and rapid changes, consumers have been hit with multiple variations of Black Friday with the emergence of Small Business Saturday (11/25) and Cyber Monday (11/27).

Chances are you spent some time shopping for family and friends over the Thanksgiving weekend. But, chances are even better you purchased an item from the comfort of home using your mobile device. Here's a look at the numbers and headlines that shaped Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday 2017.

Don't bury Black Friday just yet. Nearly three out of four Americans went shopping this past weekend. [The Washington Post | Black Friday's Not Dead Yet]

A record $5.03 billion was spent online by the end of the day on Black Friday, a 16.9% increase over the $4.3 billion spent on the day last year. [CMO by Adobe Digital | Mobile Conversions Hit New High Thanksgiving Thru Cyber Monday]

Older Millennials were the biggest shoppers this weekend. Their average spend: $419.52. [The New York Times | Shoppers Hit the Mall, But More Often Tapped Their Phones]

Any guesses what people bought more than anything else this weekend? Need a hint? [Inc. | You Might Be Surprised What Sold Most The Holiday Weekend]

So, who were the winners this Black Friday? If you guessed mobile, you're right. [Retail Dive | The Winners and Losers of Black Friday 2017]

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