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#NRF2019: Maximising value from stores of the future

Retailers are working hard to ensure their physical space remains relevant, which is leading to many ‘store of the future’ initiatives, but care has to be taken with how retailers approach such developments if they are to achieve success.

Speaking at NRF 2019 in NYC this week, Albert Vita, director of in-store experience and visual merchandising at The Home Depot, revealed that one of the most exciting parts of his role is being the programme manager of the Home Depot pilot store in Atlanta, Georgia. This effectively operates as its store of the future and has had as many as 90 unique pilot projects being run over the last three-month period within the space.

He initially recommends simplifying things down to working out how to “exponentially grow the core aspects of retail – human connection and value delivery”. The innovations initiated in a store of the future should adhere to these objectives and be seen as something that constantly evolves.

“These stores are a ‘living lab’ with innovations having a decay rate. The moment you put in an innovation the countdown to its obsolescence begins. It is also about experimentation and the more experiments you are willing to try then the more likely you’ll succeed,” he says.

Although Vita regards innovation as a “heroic act” he also says “it’s about solving customer problems and innovation is simply a manifestation of this”.

He also suggests that while it is good to be experimental it is essential that underneath the innovations included in a store of the future is also core infrastructure that is future-proofed. The store should therefore be aligned with the likes of a supply chain of the future, marketing of the future, and eCommerce of the future. These supports ensure the store of the future operates within a workable ecosystem.

One of the most underrated elements of store of the future initiatives is the area of measurement. Vita suggests it should be a priority and that consideration has to be taken about measuring stores of the future in a different way to regular outlets.

“A more holistic approach might be needed and investment made to ensure that you are capturing new measurements,” he says, adding that there could be some cross-functional impact from the store of the future whereby other metrics in the business are effected by its operation.

Having been involved with store of the future initiatives for some time Vita warns retailers that there are a number of traps that should be avoided. The seven major traps comprise:

Friction Trap - whereby the effort to remove friction in the store ends up bringing in more friction.

Isolation Trap - do not do innovation in a vacuum.

Success Trap - do not pre-determine what success looks like.

Finish line Trap - there is no finish line.

Associate Trap - make associates feel like heroes and incentivise them and share information with them.

Infrastructure Trap - avoid putting too much in.

Human behaviour Trap - it is very hard to change existing behaviour.

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