Retailers ask themselves what future role their stores can play in order to stay relevant to customers.

Often they turn to the in-store experience provided by consumer product brands for inspiration. Yet I think the brands themselves have work to do.

I’m an Apple man: phone, laptop, tablet, desktop and watch. I’ve gone the whole nine yards.

I recently visited Apple’s flagship store in San Francisco, and was particularly disappointed.

I have huge respect for Apple senior vice president of retail, Angela Ahrendts, but I expected to see a far bigger transformation of the store than I experienced.

So what’s changed? Well there’s a lovely line of trees in the store. They definitely help the ambience. And it feels more open than before.

“I want to see accessories next to products such as headphones next to phones. Show me all the watch and strap variants. Show me different apps. Sell me the watch and all the things I can do on it”

But what hasn’t changed, in my opinion, is how poorly merchandised the store is.

Apple could do a better job of demonstrating its ecosystem and how all the various products can be used together.

I want to see accessories next to products – such as headphones next to phones.

Show me all the watch and strap variants. Show me different apps. Sell me the watch and all the things I can do on it.

Show me how the watch syncs with my phone and how I get the most out of each product.

So while Apple has changed its advertising to be much more driven by use cases, rather than the product itself being the hero, it has failed to create an experience around those use cases in-store.

Confusion in-store

As a consumer, it irritates me no end that brands behave differently from retailers, making it more difficult to buy products.

Another example is Nike’s flagship store at Oxford Circus. I had a simple mission: buy a few new pairs of Lycra shorts and matching tops.

That was not nearly as easy as it should have been, as Nike chooses to create a minimalist experience in-store.

While the products I wanted to buy are part of the core range, they are largely only available online.

Why? This is so inconvenient for me. I needed them for my spinning classes that week.

Buying socks and sweatbands was a whole new experience too. I enquired about headbands with three different sales associates before finally being advised to head to the top floor and the tennis department.

“Sweatbands and socks should be available at every point in the store where apparel and footwear are sold. They’re an obvious cross-sell”

Clearly one is not expected to sweat when playing football, rugby, hockey or when running and working out. Only when playing tennis.

Sweatbands and socks should be available at every point in the store where apparel and footwear are sold. They’re an obvious cross-sell.

I shudder to think how many additional sales Nike is losing; how much greater the average order value could be.

Why? Because a brand-focused executive thought it was a good idea to declutter Nike’s store?

Both retailers and brands must better leverage online data from product searches, cross-selling data, and customer journey analysis to inform in-store merchandising decisions.

While retailers have yet to solve the dilemma of the future role of stores, I would argue that the “experience” that brands are currently providing is not the answer.

  • Martin Newman is chief executive at Practicology