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Phillip Raub (b8ta), far right, is shown during the session at the ICX Summit. Also participating were, left to right, Richard Ventura (NEC Display Solutions of America), Brandon Elliott (HMSHost) and Scott Emmons (Neiman Marcus).

When it comes to designing the retail store with digital in mind, the first step, according to Neiman Marcus’ Scott Emmons, is pretty simple: “start with your toe in the door and move from there.”

And move is exactly what Emmons, head of the Innovation Lab at Neiman, has done with the brand’s newest store in Dallas. That “toe” has delivered digital from the store lobby to the rest rooms to the dressing rooms to department displays, as RetailCustomerExperience reported in June.

The digital store design, explained Emmons during a panel session at the recent Interactive Customer Experience Summit in Dallas, requires several specific strategic elements. The first is to spend a lot of time in the store to be designed, the second is to bring together a team with member expertise in architecture, engineering, marketing and IT, and the third is to take a good, hard look at legacy infrastructure.

Emmons and Neiman’s Innovation Lab were able to enjoy a few shortcuts on digital deployments given it was a brand new store and not a “refresh” of a store.

“It’s the best place to be [new store] but you still have to build relationships with various team members and legacy things can still be a challenge. So you have to find what you have to fix first,” he shared during the panel talk, which also featured Phillip Raub, founder and CMO at b8ta, a software-powered retail showroom, and Brandon Elliott, senior director, digital products, at HSMHost.

The panel, moderated by Richard Ventura, vice president of business development and solutions, NEC Display Solutions of America, tackled a variety of topics and issues that are all part of a digital store design.

A good first step, according to Raub, is to investigate how shoppers are engaging in the current store environment and the personal experience taking place.

“What is the level you want? Consumers want the same experiential experience that they have in the store, on the phone, so you need to start with a framework,” he said.

At Neiman, that prompted Emmons’ team to work with the retailer’s visual team.

“We spent time learning how visuals need to work, in a collaborative way. Form is as important as function,” he said. The design discovery process must identify where interactive and non-interactive work best. “That depends on the focus, so you need input from marketing,” he advised.

HMSHost’s Elliott, noting that content is still king in design, advised retailers to embrace context as “queen.”

“Content needs to be contextually relevant and meaningful,” he said.

As b8ta is a young retail brand, its youth factor is a big advantage in its digital store design philosophy.

“We’re nimbler and young and can iterate quickly, and we are in constant interaction with consumers, a constant 24-hour flow of data is coming in,” he said.

HMSHost is in a different position and focusing on “bridging online to retail,” with the goal of “being broader than endless aisles.”

“You have to brand digitally relevant, consistent experiences,” said Elliott.

In that regard, both HMSHost and Neiman have an advantage, given they both have the online and the brick-and-mortar consumer environments.

“Online has been a great enabler to adopt technology in the store,” said Emmons, noting the retailer’s ecommerce sales account for 30 percent of transactions.

“Now we’re starting to think how do we deliver the great experience in store for the online-only customer,” said Emmons.

B8ta isn’t on that path as it does not yet sell products online, but at its 41 store locations. Its customers want to try and buy, and a big draw are its own branded new products – 67 launched in its stores and nowhere else.

But no matter where a retailer may be — a pure brick-and-mortar, a pure ecommerce or a multichannel operation — every retailer should have the same focus, said Emmons.

“We’re thinking of customer experience first, customer first,” he said, adding that lab innovations don’t get far if they prove to be non-practical, too expensive or don’t present a good impact on customer experience.

“Digital technology is just a piece of the retail puzzle. Do it right and do it well, but there are lots of things you need to do right as a retailer,” he said.

Retailers need to also be able to move fast and change direction, said Raub.

“Things are constantly changing and you need to be nimble enough to change as necessary,” he said.

Elliott advised retailers to keep “future proofing” in mind in digital design and leverage new technologies, such as the cloud, to keep a cap on spending.

“The job of technology innovations is to view how to leverage these platforms and plug in without having to reinvent,” he said.

As RetailCustomerExperience’s feature on Neiman’s new store innovations noted, the retailer embraced a wide bevy of digital design element and technology, and that was no fluke.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have more work to do,” said Emmons. “We have embraced what technology brings to the table, and its been a change to the game.”

Looking for more great insight and expert discussion relating to customer experience? Attend the upcoming CONNECT 2017/The Mobile CX Summit taking place August 21-23 in Philadelphia. The event will explore the many opportunities that retailers, restaurants and other B2C enterprises have for leveraging mobile and digital channels to build their brands, increase sales and improve customer engagement, experience and loyalty.

Posted with permission from
Photo Credit: Networld Media Group

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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