Product Launch Lessons From Brick-and-Mortar’s Evolution

7_9_shopping_mallBrick-and-mortar retail stores were dead…right? For years, countless experts ushered stores to the graveyard for a proper burial. But instead of going the way of the dinosaur, retailers evolved their own product – the physical retail space – to survive and thrive in the wake of the e-commerce wave. So what lessons can you can take away from this retail resurgence?

Lesson #1: Don’t Idle. Innovate.

E-commerce was poised to destroy brick-and-mortar by providing cheaper prices, more convenience and purchase validation through instant customer reviews. So retailers reinvented their approach and turned stores into central hubs for shoppers. The retail space turned into a distribution center for “pickup in-store” online orders, a trial/demo area for new products and a trade-in center to upgrade to the latest and greatest. It became a true destination thanks to innovating beyond what used to work.

Your competition for customer mindshare grows daily. So do customers’ sources of influence, which means throwing out a print ad, a TV spot or announcing products on Facebook won’t have as big an impact as it once did. With an always-on, constantly connected customer base, what does your launch strategy look like? How are you innovating at each touch point to ensure you gain the momentum you need for your product?

Lesson #2: Highlight Key Differentiators

What sets brick-and-mortar apart from e-commerce? People. Apps and websites can’t match the human experience (take that, artificial intelligence!). We still want human interaction. We still want people’s recommendations and information (which is why some store price tags have QR code links to product reviews). There are also knowledgeable sales people present to ensure customer satisfaction (i.e., Apple Genius, Best Buy “Blue Shirt”). These people help turn “maybe” into “yes.”

Online retailers have taken note and are trying to close the gap on this key difference. Companies that were exclusively online, like Warby Parker, are opening physical locations so people can feel that sense of community and shop with other people. Taking advantage of key differentiator(s) could be the difference between getting lost in a sea of similar products and positioning your product as king of the hill.

Lesson #3: Market Your Product Memorably

People can shop anywhere to buy just about anything. But it’s the experience that keeps them coming back. Most people, especially millennials, want to feel and experience something special when they visit a store. Coffee bar in a bookstore? Of course. Free in-store Wi-Fi? Yes, please. Interactive displays and virtual fitting rooms? Cool! Retailers went beyond just products and price cards. They integrated comfort, convenience and plenty of tech (i.e., interactive displays, virtual fitting rooms, beacons, shopper apps, e-commerce kiosks in-store) to create a memorable experience.

Are you relying on the same ol’ tactics to create a one-of-a-kind product launch experience? (Remember, you only get one shot at launching a product.) How do you make sure it blasts off instead of fizzling? What can you do to truly disrupt and make your product launch memorable?

7_9_retail_shopperSo What Have We Learned?

Simple: People have changed and how they shop has changed even more. Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be. Remember, your brand is only as good as its last launch and every single touch point matters. Why? Customers have access to more goods and information than ever before. They expect more when you bring a product to market. They expect seamless experiences everywhere your brand and product live. That’s what retailers learned (the ones that didn’t are no more – just look at Blockbuster).

As technology grows and customers evolve, the way you market your product must grow and evolve as well. Retailers are fighting to stay relevant by staying one step ahead, including adopting mobile payment methods (Google Wallet, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, just to name a few) to make shopping even more convenient.

What are you doing to evolve? How are you preparing for future launches? How are you embracing customer habits of today, tomorrow and beyond? Need help answering these questions? Sidestep the graveyard, give us a shout and let’s launch. It’s what we do best.

For lessons on the current and future states of brick-and-mortar retail design, click here to see our takeaways from GlobalShop 2016.