When you think about cool, creative, and innovative trends happening in the business landscape, the retail industry often sets the tone. We love getting inspiration from our favorite brands to get ideas about how to improve our guest experience by following their lead.
In the final installation of our brand inspiration series, we’re excited to share two of our favorite retail businesses that have embraced creativity to find new (and even better) ways to serve their customers.
Get inspired by their work below, and read all our previous blog posts here!
1. Fashion Retale: How UNIQLO Breaks the Mall Mold
On the surface, UNIQLO’s retail model may not seem all that special. They often exist in shopping malls, they have all the usual retail store aspects: fitting rooms, checkout lines, registers, and sales racks. But their unique recipe to success is their commitment to tiny details and forward-thinking innovation which is what customers keep coming back for more. And, perhaps it’s no surprise; after all, ‘unique’ isn’t just a descriptor, it’s embedded right in their name.
Here are a couple of examples of UNIQLO’s special approach to business, and how cultural attractions can do the same:
Prioritize personalization from technology to custom services
Getting something personalized isn’t a new idea. You can get your name on just about anything on the internet or find it on a keychain in a gift store. But how and where you offer personalization, can make an experience at your location memorable. UNIQLO prioritizes personalization with every new technology addition in their stores. From kiosk vending machines (offering quick, easy purchases when a customer needs something fast) to RFID checkout (or using a QR code, or a person’s palm to identify them when they walk through a sensor– think CLEAR at the airport or AmazonOne at Whole Foods stores), the overall benefit of personalized tech leads to customized products + greater efficiency for guests.
Another unique way to approach personalization is by offering custom clothing services when purchasing an apparel item from your store. UNIQLO does this by offering custom embroidery on their clothing with just a small surcharge. Similarly, SSA recently launched a custom patch program at Columbus Zoo where guests can pick out a retail or apparel item and pick out their favorite patches to have attached in-store. This small time and monetary commitment adds more meaning to a purchase by truly allowing guests to make it their own.
Build a lifestyle experience
UNIQLO recently opened a new prototype store that uses 40% less energy than its other locations. Beyond energy conservation, it also turns the normal retail experience on its head by making its new location more of an all-encompassing ‘lifestyle experience’. Some examples include RE.UNIQLO Studio which focuses on clothing reuse and recycling, the “UNIQLO Coffee Box” adds in a dining aspect and the “Kids Box” makes education fun while also offering them an experiential place to play (a slide and kid-sized bench cushions — shaped in letters that spell out UNIQLO). UNIQLO is known for pushing the boundaries of experiential retail in everything from RFID (mentioned above) and even AR technology.
Here are a couple of ways cultural attractions can enhance lifestyle features at their own locations:
- In-store and At-Home AR Experiences: Consider experiential AR installations to give guests experiences with your attraction’s products or exhibits in a highly interactive way. For instance, pointing your smartphone at a QR code on a clothing item or exhibit piece could trigger an immersive experience, showing how products might look in different scenarios, or informational pop-ups, 3-D models, and interactive videos.
- Experiential play places: Set up a section of your retail space that is an interactive ‘kid zone’ where children can play, meet new friends, and learn about elements of your attraction in a light-hearted, less educational setting. For example, providing a dress-up area where kids can dress as their favorite animal and get their face painted to match.
2. What’s in Waco? How Magnolia Market Built a Retail Experience in the Middle of Texas
Waco, Texas has historically not been a destination for the design-inclined but with the launch of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market at the Silos, the couple’s Midas touch brand put the city on the tourist map.
For those unfamiliar, Chip and Joanna Gaines are the stars of the TV show, ‘Fixer Upper’ which has become one of HGTV’s most popular series. Fans quickly fell in love with the Gaines’ authentic personalities and their home transformations, but also the backdrop of their story— Waco. The couple, in turn, launched Magnolia Market at the Silos, transforming a set of old grain silos into a sprawling yet charming retail experience. In doing so, they’ve transformed Waco and what it means for people who visit. It’s not just about purchasing products, it’s an entire immersive experience from dining to retail and everything that makes Magnolia more than a mere brand, but a lifestyle.
Here’s what cultural attractions can shop for themselves from Magnolia Market at the Silos approach:
- Be a true local: One of the strongest elements of Magnolia Market (and the greater Magnolia brand) is the community-building aspect. The Magnolia brand has excelled at connecting their fans with a combination of authentic storytelling, social media, and smart retail collaborations but the market itself excels at making Waco the center of all their success. Everything from community events that highlight local makers and artists to their foundation that supports needs in the community, to their sprawling lawn (The lawn serves as more than simply a place for visitors but a gathering space for locals to lounge). All of these elements (and more!) make the market not simply a store, but an accessible and supportive part of the local community.
Cultural attractions can do the same and showcase the city or town their locations are in. That could be through retail collaborations highlighting the city, finding ways to be a space for local functions, or collaborating with local schools for special programs around art, research, or environmental initiatives.
(P.S. Another great way to focus on community? Put a community table in your gift shop. By adding in this one simple element, cultural attractions can create a common area where you can host local events within your retail shop, bringing more of a community feel to the space. For example, a local author doing a book signing, a Christmas cookie decorating contest, or a “quarterly study hall” for local students to come study for end-of-year exams. This element brings to the table (pun intended!) a wealth of creative opportunities to engage and bring in the local community.)
2. Be a master in immersive experiences: Beyond being a retail hotspot for Magnolia fans all over the United States, Magnolia Market at the Silos seamlessly blends elements of dining and shopping into one cohesive experience. They offer workshops and events where guests can delve deeper into the Magnolia design process, learn new crafts, or engage in community-centric activities. Their dining spaces, such as the Magnolia Table, Silos Baking Co., and food trucks, offer culinary experiences that align with the Magnolia ethos, simple, beautiful, and local. Combined with rustic retail offerings, visitors are not just walking into a store; they’re stepping into a world where every corner holds an opportunity to learn, dine, and shop in a setting that’s exciting from every corner.
At SSA Group, we’re passionate about helping cultural attractions do the very same thing: Making every aspect of your space from the first admission to the perfect souvenir and the final restaurant bill a seamless, integrated, and memorable experience for every guest that visits.