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    Why Everything About the Physical Store Must Change

    Retailers should perceive the space as a place to provide an experience.

    NEW YORK — The retail store as we know it is dead. Retailers must stop thinking about their stores as places that distribute products, and rather perceive them as a place to provide an experience.

    So said Doug Stephens, retail and consumer futurist and founder of Retail Prophet, who delivered a keynote speech at the recent Shopper Marketing Summit in New York. The annual event is presented by Convenience Store News sister company Path to Purchase Institute.

    Stephens, who cited various statistics about the explosive growth of ecommerce, did not advise shutting down or downsizing physical environments, pointing to the fact that people still line up in front of Apple stores to get the next iPhone and that previously pure e-tailers today are opening brick-and-mortar locations. Instead, he espoused his theory that as ecommerce grows, everything about physical retail must change.

    "Physical stores are becoming media," he said. "The physical store is actually the most powerful, measurable and manageable form of media that we all have at our disposal, but it takes a fundamental mind shift: we have to stop thinking about stores as places that distribute products — but experience."

    Instead of seeing a store as a place that houses inventory, successful players will perceive the space as a place to provide an experience and bring a brand story to life. Stores are going to be less about the product itself or commerce or inventory, and more about production value, community and inspiration.

    Stephens shared examples such as Globe-Trotter in Germany, where shoppers can climb, canoe, sail, scuba dive and test out cold weather gear in an arctic chamber, among other experiences; or Pirch stores, where all the appliances are plugged in and shoppers can make a cup of coffee, cook beside a chef, or even take a shower.

    "The purpose of a store is not going to be about four wall conversion anymore," Stephens said. "It's going to be to create converts for the brand."

    Click here to see the full story from Convenience Store News sister company Path to Purchase Institute.

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