The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

Future Stores Miami – An Important Look Into The Future Of The Store

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You would think that after the extravaganza that is the NRF Big Show, retailers would have had enough of trade shows and content talking about the industry. But along came Future Stores Miami, one of two annual Future Stores conferences (the other is in Seattle in June).

More than 320 attendees from over 100 retailers came to discuss “Retail’s Renaissance” and “Retail Reimagined.” It was a solid event. Definitely worth attending for practical ideas driving retail today.

I attended Future Stores in Miami a couple of years ago and it was a much smaller event. This one was chock-a-block full of content. More than 59% of attendees were VP level and above. Content was king, as we heard from speakers from retailers as varied as Best Buy, Mars Retail Group, Carnival Cruise Lines and Warby Parker.

The long and the short of it is that retailers are recognizing the importance of the store to their futures and continue to seek ways to improve the in-store experience for everyone involved. Dear to my heart, the conversation wasn’t all about technology, but also included discussion of store design and operations. We didn’t see a lot of the far-away future, but rather things that are done today.

The group had the opportunity to tour Brickell City Centre, just up the street. I’ve written about it before. It’s a live/work/shop environment, and the mall itself, a joint venture between Simon Properties and the Whitman Family (Bal Harbour Shops) is not like any other mall I’ve ever been in. Part inside, part outside, it has some of the ethos of Bal Harbour Shops while achieving the scale that Simon Properties typically brings to its malls. It’s not a secret that I’m not a mall rat, yet I actually enjoy going to Brickell City Centre. It feels fresh, and airy, even in the middle of a pretty crazy part of downtown Miami.

We also saw presentation from Saks and smaller retailers… even from retailers who are moving from “pure play” to stores. Retailers take note. Pure play generally is not enough to become profitable. It may have created the world’s richest man (Jeff Bezos), but it hasn’t generated a ton of bottom-line money without stores to add into the mix.

There was, of course, lots of talk about the customer experience, and I wish there had been a bit more content on empowering in-store associates with technology. In addition, I still worry about retailers’ interest in using customer data to improve the customer experience. It’s a good and noble venture, but it’s also fraught with risk. Anything that is not completely permission-based is dangerous. Perhaps more dangerous now than ever.

And towards that end, the same crickets heard around data security at the Big Show were present at Future Stores as well. On the one hand, data security and privacy is an IT issue. On the other hand, it can be a serious brand issue. I hope to hear more about that next year.

This was the smaller of the two Future Stores events held every year. The larger show will be held in Seattle, June 5-7. If you’re involved in stores, I strongly recommend you check it out. We need more practical examples of store success. Future Stores, despite its name, delivers on present-day experiences.

 


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