Post Modern: the new architecture of retail


No longer enough to have bricks & mortar
No longer enough to have impressive bricks & mortar

We hear the description “Post Modern” increasingly in industry chats today, especially from some of our colleagues emerging from the recent National Grocers Assn. Show in Las Vegas.

We’re not talking about the lauded design styles of masters such as Philip Johnson or Michael Graves, but of the new structural elements of shopping behavior.   In short, the Post Modern approach is the new architecture of retail, and marketers need to adapt to it…or start to crumble.

Kantar Retail details this trend in their “Retailing 2020” report, an excellent overview of some of the topics we have addressed in these posts as well, such as channel blurring, segmentation,  customer profiling, and others.

The report’s premise is that the Post-Modern period (which we are entering now) decries the end of Supercenter Era.  Hypermarts and big boxes will give way to “small, urban, ―alternative retail formats, as well as reliance on multi-format portfolios to capture future growth.”

Comparisons are made to Europe, where real estate is through the roof, chains are fewer and competition fierce, forcing retailers to be efficient and effective.  Private brands, direct to consumer advertising and more robust marketing are some of their strategies for survival.

We recently caught up with busy retail-wonk, Kantar EVP David Marcotte, who launched our fascinating discourse with the revelation:  “When clients ask me to show them who’s doing the best job in retailing today, I send them to Mexico.”

He went on to explain that Mexico has embraced the latest in digital with innovative design to deliver the experience their rising-income customers want.  (This merits its separate post:  stay tuned!)  Actually, emerging markets such as all the BRICs (Brazil, Russian, India, China and now, of course, Mexico) essentially leapfrogged to digital over the last few years from their Cro Magnon-era phone services.

Our discussion evolved into some of the key buzzwords that marketers should be familiar with in today’s Post-Modern retail architecture, such as:

  • data architecture, the art of proper intel mining skills; not just collecting it, but creating a compelling and engaging story that links the data sources.  In fact, we believe that having a compelling story to tell  customers is going to be the hallmark of successful businesses.
  • footprint no longer means the spot where the store stands, but the overall influence it has.  In fact, it may mean no store at all, or comprise multi-footprints, including digital,  etc.
  • transparency.  Shoppers are gaining (and now expecting) much greater access to the entire supply chain by following products from your plant to their place.   The good news is that info can mean higher efficiencies for manufacturers, but also result in consumers clamoring for removals of things they don’t like (i.e. the recent Subway ingredient incident )
  • wall-less retailing provides seamless channel transition and thus delightful shopping experience for the customer:  it looks like one big room full of good stuff!

A final thought on this reverts back to our premise of Post Modernism in relation to architecture:  that it  stemmed from the perceived limitati0ns of the Modern Movement that preceded it.  Folks felt that  buildings had become too stark and functional, and did not meet the human need for comfort and beauty.  It’s the same with shopping.

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