After a painfully long winter that kept shoppers hibernating instead of shopping, earnings reports released this morning indicate that customer confidence is finally on the rise and consumers are comfortable shopping again. Just in time, the retail shopping scene is experiencing a revival in strategy on levels not seen since before the recession. It has taken a while, but it seems that retailers determined to survive are finally embracing digital and are taking an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join e’m” stance.

Traditional embracing digital

At the ReCon shopping center convention held last week, the mood was optimistic with a shift in thinking to bring an “A-game” to consumers. Traditional shopping malls are catching on to what customers want and are joining forces to integrate with digital to become truly omni-channel. Previously resistant to the digital world, fashion brands are now reinventing themselves with digital, social, and online conveniences like wi-fi and same-day delivery for a more efficient shopping experience. Retailers and property managers alike are building conceptual, community driven speciality stores and are steering away from the all-in-one big box monoliths.

Alternatively, we have seen online-only retailers like Piperlime and Warby Parker move into traditional retail spaces to provide a robust omni-channel shopping experience for their user base. These stores bring the conceptual brand to life and add a depth to the shopping experience that online simply cannot provide. Bridging the gap between the showroom experience and digital innovation provides the personalization and automation we have come to love and expect from online giants like Amazon.

“Brick and mortar is going to be the heart of omnichannel.”
Robert Taubman, CEO of the 27+ Taubman malls across the U.S.

The new omni-channel world

Retailers are strategizing how to best utilize their retail stores in the new omni-channel world. Macy’s is optimizing their 800+ stores to cross function as distribution warehouses. Classic cornerstones like Sears, J.C. Penney, Barnes & Noble are being asked to leave as malls are paving the way for younger, community driven brands.  In the near future, we can expect a more customized showroom trend, preference-driven shopping with stores equipped with mobile checkout, mobile apps to order food, and an all new focus on the personalized consumer experience.

Act now, don’t be left in the retail dust

Previously, we wrote about how Amazon could be a lethal disruptor to traditional retail by acquiring Sears Holdings and establishing an omni-channel presence. While Amazon has yet to make its move, our predictions are still sound with malls across America planning to integrate digital sophistication to their physical presence. First and foremost, we recommend benchmarking current practices, designing a digital business plan and using the insights of customer data to tailor and streamline your omni-channel presence.