The Grand Bazaar is located deep inside of the walled city of Istanbul. Founded in 1455, it is the largest and oldest covered markets in the world with more than 61 covered streets and 3,000 shops attracting more than 250,000 visitors each day. It might seem strange to look back to a 15th century shopping experience to point to the future of retail, but we believe retail is headed ‘back to the future’.
Many retail watchers are beginning to realize that in-store experiences are too linear and too one dimensional. Today shoppers enter retail stores and see the same products for the same prices every other shopper experiences. We believe that retailers who strive to create specialized experiences will see their share of consumer spending increase.
For hundreds of years shoppers in the Grand Bazaar have experienced a unique 1-on-1 conversation with retailers. With more than 3,000 shops competing for the same shoppers you might assume everything would come down to price. You would be wrong. If you stopped watching the retailers and started watching the shoppers you would begin to see order out of the chaos. Take for example the throngs of designer-clad women holding their designer Chanel and Hermes bags as they weave purposefully through the narrow streets and aisles. If you watch closely you will see them disappear through certain shop’s ‘anonymous portals‘, Inside they are able to find the best of the best in designer merchandise delivered in a highly personalized and intimate manner. These ‘in the know’ shoppers have discovered an exclusive shopping experience that isn’t available to just anyone. Coupled with the exclusive nature of the experience the retailer has added a second, important, ingredient: scarcity. Think of these retail experiences as ‘highly curated’ for these ‘in the know’ shoppers (designers, buyers, locals, stars and moguls).
Smart retailers can begin to leverage the ingredients of the Bazaar to begin to start 1-on-1 conversations with today’s highly connected consumer. These conversations don’t have to be about price. For example Macy’s CEO, Terry Lundgren, is in the process of remaking his storied retail brand. Last year ShopSavvy licensed it’s scanner technology to Macy’s for the development of their Backstage Pass program – touted as a way to ‘Shop like a VIP with Macy’s Backstage Pass’. Shoppers scan the red stars throughout the store to watch exclusive fashion tips and insider advice from stars like Carlos Santana, Rachel Ray, Donald Trump, Tommy Hilfiger, Martha Stewart and Michael Kors – all specifically tailored to individual shoppers. Over time this ‘backstage’ experience becomes more and more customized as Macy’s begins to build a more intimate relationship with the shopper.
But it isn’t just about mobile, Lundgren is also installing kiosks in-store than provide consumers access to reviews, advice from friends and the ability to pay on the spot. Additionally, he has placed an electronic concierge in the cosmetic section to recommend skin care products. Lungren explains, “It’s clear to me that the consumer likes shopping online, I am focused on how do we make them feel as comfortable and ready to buy in our stores as they do online?” Finally, Macy’s is turning 292 of its more than 800 stores double as distribution centers for online orders t0 better compete with Amazon.com. Macy’s is embracing an omni-channel, 1-to-1 approach to consumers.
Applications like ShopSavvy can help retailers open new lines of communications with shoppers. By making a topical connection at the exact right moment shoppers will appreciate the conversation. Successful retailers will learn to leverage these exclusive and scarce moments and shoppers will reward them.