Encouraging a sense of community is emerging as an increasingly important part of a successful physical retail strategy. The pandemic precipitated a large-scale adoption of ecommerce which led to a sharp decline in foot traffic at brick and mortar shops. Since then, consumers have been returning to stores. A key element of this is a growing desire among consumers to support local businesses and connect with their communities. According to a survey in the US which was commissioned by AT&T and conducted by OnePoll, the average person “shops small” 213 times throughout the year. But it’s not just about having a store within the community. It’s about designing the store in such a way that it creates ways to bring people together. A good example of this is Sixty-six’s Shenzhen store which has an indoor skatepark featuring a circular track.
Why is it important?
By getting community members out of their homes and interacting with each other, retailers are likely to grow brand loyalty, leading to increased long-term sales. This is difficult to achieve through online channels. It could also lead to economic growth for the community itself as stores expand and employ locals. Revitalised streets and districts are also a possible outcome following greater investment in the area. For residents themselves, connecting with community members in stores like Sixty-six as mentioned above, would be a positive outcome. We are in the midst of what some are calling a loneliness pandemic and initiatives to encourage members of the public to connect are to be welcomed.
What can businesses do about it?
Retailers should begin to see the store as a space for shoppers to interact and not just transact. “We try to create places [where] people want to spend time. It’s a bit unorthodox, but at the heart of that pursuit is avoiding the sales process altogether. When we think about building a place where people want to be, we find that it makes a lot more sense to think about […] where somebody wants to spend their time and not where they necessarily want to spend their dollars,” says Samantha David, president of WS Development. Locally, our Checkers stores with Starbucks and Exclusive Books with Seattle Coffee shops are examples of this. This can be achieved through designing a store so that consumers feel at home within the space. Events that get community members to interact with each other is another way to encourage consumers to spend time in your space.
By Faeeza Khan
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