Carving out time to dream up (let alone implement) progressive retail programs can feel like a Herculean task for busy independent business owners. But implementing forward-thinking initiatives—on even the smallest scale—can impact your bottom line positively and establish your store as a market leader.
Here are five out-of-the-box initiatives recently implemented by retailers big and small:
Drool-inducing New York City home décor and furniture store ABC Carpet & Home, which also sells jewelry, boasts a room called “RAW” that features a willy-nilly collection of salvaged industrial bits, furniture pieces and vintage signage. Instead of discouraging its customers from taking Instagram photos of the unique inventory, the store has posted a sign that reads “Instagram: #awabchome,” welcoming photography, and defining the tag they’d like click-happy consumers to use when posting images online. Where’s the genius? Your customers do all the work, while giving you all the credit.
Jewelry sold at ABC Carpet & Home in New York City. (Photo courtesy of ABC Carpet & Home)
Aplomb, an independent online fashion retailer, has eliminated money from its sales equation—at least among its most loyal fans. The small business promotes outsized ideas and advocacy, encouraging users of the brand’s community site to write about the social issues they care most deeply about (gun control, health care, etc.). Members of the site accrue points for contributing and voting on other essays. Then the most popular ideas are flipped into visual works of art printed on clothing. Users ultimately trade points to buy the company merch, which is also sold to the general public. Yes, for money. Imagine the engaged, active audience you could build just by asking for unfiltered opinions.
A graphic on Aplomb’s website describing how user-generated designs get made. (Photo courtesy of Aplomb)
Hointer, an indie store in Seattle that sells designer jeans for men, recently implemented a robotic element. Shoppers use a smartphone to scan a QR code or tap a tag on the products they want to try on. The items are then robotically delivered to dressing rooms. If they want to make a purchase, consumers swipe their card through a reader and saunter out of the store with their goodies—having never interacted with a human. “The whole idea behind Hointer is to combine the ability to try on items with the very fast and efficient model of online shopping,” founder Nadia Shouraboura, a former Amazon executive, told the Seattle Times. While human interaction is integral to the business of selling jewelry, mechanizing aspects of the retail equation (such as taking inventory) and making things faster for consumers makes a lot of sense.
Shopping by iPhone at Hointer in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Hointer)
British fast fashion chain Topshop used up-and-coming social app, Chirp, to disseminate images from its 2014 spring collection. The next-generation app transmits photos, text, and links to mobile devices through sound—over a radio, the Internet, or by someone in close proximity. To get the “chirps,” a user just needs to install the app onto his or her smartphone. Why not Chirp out the fun from your next designer trunk show or open house?
Jewelry by TopShop. (Photo courtesy of TopShop)
When AT&T debuted its new store concept this summer in Chicago, its many techie bells and whistles were augmented by a lineup of irreverent in-store events. For a party showcasing smartphone cases from Otter, the store had Chicago Blackhawks legends Bobby Hull and Eddie Olczyk take some gleeful whacks at the cases with their hockey sticks to prove the products’ durability. Obviously you can’t have sports figures battering your diamonds. But don’t be afraid to hinge your next event on humor. Gen-Yers appreciate a good joke.
AT&T’s space age store in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of AT&T)