Professional Jeweler Archive: The Future of Retail

June 2002


The Future of Retail

A design futurist predicts more technology, a museum-like atmosphere and a warm personal touch for store settings

As your customer comes through the door, she’s met by the sound of water washing over stones. She looks to the right and sees your new exhibit on alluvial diamond mining. Meeting her with a warm towel to clean her hands, you ask her if she’d like to view the exhibit first or stop at your refreshment counter. After a leisurely cappuccino during which you catch up on her latest travels, you show her your newest gemstone acquisitions. She takes an interest in peridot and asks to see some mounted in rings. You show her what you have, then usher her to a comfortable chair at a computer terminal where she can view electronic catalogs of peridot jewelry suppliers or play with design equipment and put together elements for a custom ring.

If James P. Cramer is right, this scenario is how you will operate – or what you will compete with – in the future. Cramer is a global design consultant and CEO of Greenway Consulting. He says retailers must adopt a proactive approach to changing and reinventing themselves if they are to be successful in the brave new world of retail.

Writing in Display and Design Ideas magazine, Cramer, who cochairs the Design Futures Council, says despite all the advancements retailers have seen already, technological changes are just beginning. He predicts chips in credit cards will tell you not only how many times a customer entered your store a month, but how many minutes he or she was there. Holographic images will welcome guests. Idea kiosks will help them with ideas, instructions and directions. Stores will be places to grow, learn, get coaching and increase self-knowledge, he says.

Instead of hard-sell, stores will stage entertainment spectacles and mount products in museum-like displays, dazzling customers with experiences that “feel rich, but are not [necessarily] expensive.” Cramer cites jewelry boutiques where a variety of products have “a price range that does not threaten or intimidate, but instead elevates and enriches the self-esteem.”

Complementing all this will be excellent personal service, with attentive, well-informed sales associates. “Retail experiences with the highest social capital will reap the most financial capital,” he says. “This place is exciting and they know me,” is a statement Cramer thinks stores will need to elicit from customers. Sales associates have to be genuinely likable and friendly, along with having thorough product knowledge.

To get there from here, Cramer recommends retailers be totally open to change, even if what they do now to build image is successful. Too often, he says, retailers stick with what’s worked because it builds on an already strong brand. But if a store’s image stops connecting with customers’ heightened expectations for retail experiences, the store can become bland, he says.

Future stores will have museum-like auras such as Traditional Jewelers, Newport Beach, CA. Display and Design Ideas magazine profiled the store, mentioning its mural of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Man,” which fills the ceiling and provides drama for evening visitors. Photo from Display and Design Ideas.

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications