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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the year, we will explore the hot four trends (Omniexperience, Smart Shopping, Engagement, and Activism) showcased in 2018 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

In today’s blog, we will explore Trend #3: Engagement.


Trend #3: Engagement

In retail, interaction between customers and staff sets the stage for a personal shopping experience. When consumers choose to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, they are looking for the personal, human experience that the online world cannot provide. Interaction and engagement in the store with products, staff and brands are essential, allowing for more accurately identifying customer needs, building relationships and loyalty and personalizing the shopping experience. Intensive storytelling and strong content are paramount in resonating with customers and creating an emotional connection to the brand.

mymuesli, Germany

Founded in 2007, mymuesli was the first cereal company in Germany enabling customers (called muesli friends) to customize their own cereal mix online with fully organic ingredients. Additionally, there is a wide range of pre-mixed cereals and breakfast products available online and in more than 50 mymuesli stores. The new store’s layout offers muesli friends and employees room for interaction and communication. Checkout takes place at a kitchen island, where muesli friends can also order smoothie bowls, coffee or to-go products. In the muesli library, guests find a wide selection of muesli creations and lifestyle products.

The new mymuesli store not only offers a wide range of cereals for different individual requirements, but also serves as a social, interactive space. Customers feel welcome in a warm and inspiring atmosphere, where the check-out point is a kitchen island. There is no barrier between staff and muesli friends. Muesli friends are invited to share their mymuesli experiences on Instagram.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

The new mymuesli store concept was developed and designed based on key customer segments and the innovative multichannel brand DNA of mymuesli. Offering many products besides muesli, the store invites customers to linger and get a healthy smoothie or breakfast. Based on target group needs, mymuesli developed new products, such as smoothie bowls and cereal drinks. The store’s layout and design create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, allowing maximum interaction with the products and staff and seek to strengthen the mymuesli experience.

Lee Valley, Canada

Lee Valley is a 40-year-old Canadian company that sells both online and through its 20 retail locations across Canada. Its product is rooted in woodworking and gardening, but expanded its customer offering to include hardware, home and gift products. Through its growth, Lee Valley realized that the knowledge and information it provides customers was just as important — if not more important — than the products. This set a course of creating customer engagement opportunities across its retail network, including in-store events, seminars and drop-ins, online woodworking and gardening newsletters, as well as digital outreach through social media. Each Lee Valley store is outfitted with its own seminar room to host new and existing customers and also offers ongoing demonstrations and engagement opportunities on the showroom floor. Lee Valley is committed to skill building and sharing the joy of creation—this makes it a trusted source for information and knowledge, giving customers the confidence to try.

Lee Valley is a 40-year-old Canadian company that sells both online and through its 20 retail locations across Canada. Its product is rooted in woodworking and gardening, but expanded its customer offering to include hardware, home and gift products. Through its growth, Lee Valley realized that the knowledge and information it provides customers was just as important — if not more important — than the products. This set a course of creating customer engagement opportunities across its retail network, including in-store events, seminars and drop-ins, online woodworking and gardening newsletters, as well as digital outreach through social media. Each Lee Valley store is outfitted with its own seminar room to host new and existing customers and also offers ongoing demonstrations and engagement opportunities on the showroom floor. Lee Valley is committed to skill building and sharing the joy of creation—this makes it a trusted source for information and knowledge, giving customers the confidence to try.

While many of Lee Valley’s products and programs are not novel in themselves, their combination with a coordinated purpose to ensure success for their customers is innovative. These products and programs include:

  • Canadian-designed woodworking tools through its Veritas brand, one of the most respected woodworking brands in the world.
  • A combination of selling channels that include stores, catalogs and websites that work together to serve the customer better.
  • In-store seminars and workshops, where customers can find out how to use the tools they have bought or just learn about shortcuts and new skills in their area of interest. These can include everything from woodworking and bookbinding to gardening and DIY.
  • For customers who cannot make it to a workshop, Lee Valley provides monthly woodworking and gardening newsletters which share techniques, tips and tricks for learning. Many of the articles feature projects from Lee Valley employees, which further emphasize the company’s expertise.
  • All of these products and services have created a community of Lee Valley customers who are fiercely loyal and committed to the brand.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Lee Valley is a true omnichannel operator that started with catalogs and specialized in woodworking but has expanded in purpose and brand. It now provides tools to make everyday tasks in customers’ homes, workshops and gardens easier and better. Lee Valley has made its stores the center of a community of like-minded people who find reward in the creative process.

Muji Hotel, China

The Japanese company Muji, famed for its contemporary lifestyle products, recently opened its first hotel in Shenzhen, China’s fastest-growing city. Located in Shenzhen’s central Upper Hills neighborhood, the hotel is designed to provide a physical experience of the Muji philosophy and its minimalist Japanese style. The hotel has 79 guest rooms, with five different types offered, spanning the fourth to sixth floors. Walls and courtyards are created with materials recycled from the pillars and walls of traditional Chinese houses. The hotel design projects a luxurious concept.

The Japanese company Muji, famed for its contemporary lifestyle products, recently opened its first hotel in Shenzhen, China’s fastest-growing city. Located in Shenzhen’s central Upper Hills neighborhood, the hotel is designed to provide a physical experience of the Muji philosophy and its minimalist Japanese style. The hotel has 79 guest rooms, with five different types offered, spanning the fourth to sixth floors. Walls and courtyards are created with materials recycled from the pillars and walls of traditional Chinese houses. The hotel design projects a luxurious concept.

In addition to offering a soothing sanctuary, the hotel is also home to the biggest Muji store in China, spread across 1,726 sqm, on the second and third floors. The store includes features like an embroidery workshop and custom-made Muji curtains. Another unique feature of the hotel is that everything on display in the hotel rooms is available to purchase. The hotel also boasts additional features such as a diner, library and gymnasium.

Muji Hotel is innovative because it promotes the brand by providing a physical experience of the Muji philosophy and its minimalist Japanese style and through use of its products in the hotel.

  • Besides being a hotel, it is home to the largest Muji store. Everything on display in hotel rooms is for sale at the store in the hotel.
  • The hotel includes an embroidery workshop, where customers can purchase custom-made Muji curtains. The hotel also boasts additional features, such as a diner, library and gymnasium.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Muji’s hotel highlights a very different approach to brands going bricks-and-mortar.  Retailers are opening new and innovative formats that reinvent the wheel. Muji can utilize its retailer and customer expertise to bring a new experience to the forefront.

J.C. Williams Group’s Final Word

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends, but they already begin to illustrate how valuable engagement with the customer is, especially for digital natives. We at JCWG expect to see more innovation in line with this trend as 2019 progresses.

See 13 MORE Smart Shopping concepts and more in 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends! Download your free copy now!

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