Flipping the Script: The Rise of Shape-Shifting Experience Platforms

Retail brands the world over are reinventing what it looks like to shop, far beyond the much-discussed physical and digital divide. From big box to burgeoning D2C brands, retailers who are thriving in the e-commerce age are building strong communities and imaginative experiences across customer touch points.

At this year’s Advertising Week New York, SHOWFIELDS' Katie Hunt and VMLY&R's Charlie Wade took the stage to explore the strategies that today's top D2C marketers are using to flip the script on retail.

Key Takeaways

  • D2C brands are seeing success because they’re created out of a legitimate problem that founders have encountered. For example, the founder of Warby Parker kept sitting on his $700 glasses, and figured there had to be a different way.
  • Larger legacy retailers need to realize that they cannot simply buy up a D2C brand to rejuvenate their own brand. It’s not about acquiring these brands. It’s about getting people so excited about the product that they’re going to dinner and talking about it. 
  • D2C brands think beyond conversion – they think about connections. 
  • These brands are saying to their consumers, “you’re valuable, and we’re listening to exactly what you want.” 
  • By shifting the focus from money to being wonderful to customers, you can change the paradigm. What you create is a customer that has a greater lifetime value, and a brand that no one else can touch.
  • Good D2C founders are talking to customers all the time. They need to stay connected to what their consumer needs. Glossier, for example, releases products entirely based on what their consumers are asking for.
  • D2C brands don’t sell products; they tell stories. The best stories being told right now are founder-led stories, by the most creative and interesting brands. 
  • All brands need to rethink the role of the store. That role hasn’t changed – it’s actually gone back to its original purpose. People used to go to stores to touch silk or smell spices they’d never seen before. Brands have to curate that moment of discovery at some sort of physical touchpoint.

Notable Quotes

  • “With SHOWFIELDS, we’re always asking, how can we completely reimagine retail from the customer’s point of view? Which conversations keep us relevant and involved? This is an entirely new different generation of consumers, and companies that don't listen will die out.” – Katie Hunt, Co-Founder and CRO, SHOWFIELDS
  • “We believe that the future of retail is actually D2C and physical retail coming together. We call it C-Commerce – consumer commerce.” – Katie Hunt
  • “D2C brands are flipping the script in their internal set-up, both in terms of organization and culture. Successful D2C brands are unorganized  – this doesn’t mean disorganized, rather it means that they’re able to operate nimbly and fluidly.” Charlie Wade, Group Director, Head of New York Commerce VMLY&R
  • “We created SHOWFIELDS as a department store where every brand is a digital-only brand. The store changes completely every 6 months. It’s as if you let children decide how to design a store.” – Katie Hunt
  •  “The most beautiful and elegant way to tell your story might just be in person. Going forward, every brand needs a physical touchpoint, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a store.” – Katie Hunt