If retail is dying, then it is often said that it is Amazon holding the knife. Indeed, amid UBS predictions that 75,000 stores will close across the US by 2026, Amazon added $35 billion in retail sales in America last year.
But one woman who passionately believes in the power of brick and mortar stores is Joy Howard, the outgoing Lyft chief marketing officer, and former senior marketing executive at Nike’s Converse All Star and Coca-Cola.
She thinks retail’s ability to lift our noses out of our phones means that the physical experience of shopping will endure. And it’s a theory that clearly resonates with Amazon, given the rise of its Amazon Go stores.
Howard, the soon-to-be CMO of software security firm Dashlane, told Business Insider: “How many times have people said retail is dead. Sure, retail, as it existed 10 years ago, is never going to exist that way again, but what that means now is so rich and exciting, because [physical stores] are really about experience.
“We’re locked into our devices every day, so I think anything that gets us out, moving through the world, connecting with other people, and having a set of sensory experiences that ignite our imaginations.
“That’s so, so important for companies. The battle for attention spans on every screen is so, so intense, and yet companies can show up in the physical world in a way that’s refreshing and useful and engaging for people. That’s a critically important part of branding.”
Howard says the Sonos brand is‘hard to imagine’ without retail stores
Howard sees consumer electronics firm Sonos — for whom she served as CMO between 2015 and 2018 — as a strong example of a brand based on physical outlets.
“Think about Sonos, for example. Before Sonos opened its first store in New York in 2016, it’s kind of hard to imagine what that brand was like before then,” she says of the firm’s smart speakers.
“That Sonos store became not only the visual symbol of what the product stood for in the world, it also became almost like a laboratory for people to engage with its product, and for the company itself to think about how they engage with the product.”
The take-home message, in Howard’s view, is that retail stores are not just for companies that sell a diverse range of goods.
She adds: “Even pure-play college companies that eventually manifest physically in the world — it’s always exciting when that happens, and it always leads to a new imaginative and creatively fertile phase for the brand.
“A pure play company like Casper that started online has organised super-interesting pop-ups and experiences for people to come in and engage with the brand. Retail stores are very important to brand-building – and more than ever.”