Retail has been reinventing itself for quite some time. No longer is it a mandatory part of our week to spend time in a store, though many of us still do particularly when shopping for food or sundries. But more and more purchasing has moved online, and if digital retailers succeed with the next big step, much of our future purchasing may be on a subscription model. So, where do stores fit in, and what indicators do we see about what consumers want from the in-store experience?
“Retailtainment” is one of the big attractions for today’s shoppers, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF), and retailers are looking for new ways to offer both product and brand experiences. The NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, with members in forty-five countries ranging from wholesalers and online retailers to individual Main Street shops. In 2018, they issued a trends report on the buying habits of millennial parents – observing after monitoring this age group for over a decade that “millennial parents shop differently than other parents.” Key findings included that they have a “wealth of information” available on demand and use their phones at almost every step of the buying process. Quality matters, as does customer service and brand knowledge and having shared values with the brand.
But often what brings them to a store, and what makes them more than twice as likely to return, are events. And, an added benefit is that they like to gift or share events with others, so they can serve as influencers as well.
Retailers are responding in kind providing immersive experiences that can be specialized, personalized, or even tailor-made. And, knowing that they have consumers who like to share their experiences on social platforms, retailers want well-designed events that look inviting and photograph well. Multifaceted events are also sought after because they attract a broader audience and can provide a longer and more immersive experience.
Consumers like to feel part of the buying process, be educated about what they buy, and have the ability to engage and have input for future purchase. They also like to make local connections and have an ongong connection with what they buy and support.
While this is newer to many areas of retail, publishers and booksellers have lots of experience running these kinds of events – and bookstores have extensive experience serving as community partners and places for creators, fans and community to come together. Authors and illustrators also have much to offer in this area – with rich content, the ability to create a narrative for events, broad audience appeal, and (in the case of illustrators) the skill to make them visually compelling.
This trend offers opportunities to partner with other kinds of retailers and to learn from what’s going on elsewhere. Authors and illustrators can think about the kinds of events that they can engineer – since retailers are hungry for these ideas.