The new bar for brick and mortar.

So about a month ago I did a post called ‘Nike Stores Aren’t Stores‘.

And if that was a hint, today was a dead giveaway about where the future of retail is heading, especially when it comes to brick-and-mortar.

I kicked off a snow NYC Saturday with a trip to American Eagle’s new prototype stores – AE Studio. Holy shit am I glad I did.

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American Eagle, the once struggling teen-centered clothing brand – somewhere wedged between American Apparel on the low side and J. Crew on the high side – rolled out AE Studio in Union Square to test out a new shopping experience.

Before you even walk in, there’s an AE Studio truck outside giving away free hot chocolate to anyone (literally ANYONE). Then you walk into a colorful, electric vibe with the first room lined with hundreds of jeans and iPads, digitally demonstrating the fit of each pant.

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There are loads of patches that you can get sewn onto your jeans while you’re in store, helping hype up this notion of personalization that AE is really trying to drive home. It helps the customer feel like they’re getting something truly unique. And because it’s done right then and there, it’s an EXPERIENCE.

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Move further and you’ll see a laundry room. Yes, a FUCKING LAUNDRY ROOM. Why? Because NYU dorms are literally next door and they want young college kids (totally their demo) to come do laundry for free, chill and potentially buy some shit. Or ‘gram from inside so their friends can see.

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Want more chill? You go upstairs and there’s a lounge. Yes, a lounge. Outlets, chargers, bottled water, free WiFi, music, etc. All to not only entice people to come into the store in high-foot-traffic Union Square, but to then STAY AND HANG OUT. All of this is free, regardless of whether you buy something or not.

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So. Why does this make any sense? Why bother doing all this stuff for free for consumers? Who really gives a shit and wants to hang out in an American Eagle?

Well first, the place was crowded. Far more crowded than I’ve ever seen an American Eagle before. And it sucks people in with perks like hot chocolate, free laundry, WiFi, outlets and bottled water. And the thought it was once you walk into the store, the product is cool enough and prices are low enough that you just may make a spontaneous purchase.

And if you don’t? It’s still a win, because people like me now think American Eagle is infinitely cooler than it was before I walked in, which means I’m more likely to consider them going forward or even to promote it (like in this fucking blog post).

SO GOOD ON YOU AMERICAN EAGLE. You absolutely nailed this. I really hope this proves to be a slam dunk for the business and that you roll out more of these going forward, because this is the future of retail, especially for brick and mortar. And in high traffic areas.

Good on ya, mate.

Still think we’re scared of brands having our data?

Based on the below screenshot of all Twitter activity surrounding #spotifywrapped, it sure as shit doesn’t look like it.

To celebrate the year-end, Spotify amassed all of our individual data into a customized experience on their microsite – Wrapped. And you could not only see everything you’ve listened to and how your musical tastes have grown, but you could share / compare with friends and get customized playlists based on your data.

This type of data usage by Spotify helps create a personalized, 1:1 experience. Consumers feel like the company not only gets them, but cares about them.

Moral of the story as a brand: Ask for data, leverage data and turn it around to provide value and entertainment.

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God I love Lyft.

What a fuckin’ year for Lyft, right?

I mean Uber shat the bed on so many levels – poor guys have had it rough. And Lyft, like Aaron Rodgers-style, was just waiting in the wings to pounce.

I switched over full-time to Lyft a few months ago after all of the Uber London miscues, which just felt like the last straw to make me thing ‘Uber is a mess’. Plus the drivers don’t like it.

So I’ve loved Lyft ever since, especially Lyft Line. Awesome branding all-around, drivers seem happy and I thought the founders’ story on NPR’s How I Built This.

But this latest campaign I just saw pushes me over the edge. Lyft has managed to make it about the DRIVERS, thanking them and strengthening the community so drivers feel appreciated. It’s not about praising the consumers – it’s more familial (and thus special) than that.

And as a customer, that makes me want to love Lyft even more because if they take care of their drivers, I view them better as a company and assume the drivers will be happier and thus better towards me. Especially in light of Uber’s year.

Beautiful insights here about Lyft drivers doing this as a means to something else. The company is championing the drivers’ dreams outside the company – such humility. And the visual direction is totally spot on – such a quick read for consumers.

Even the OOH is beautiful and clean. And that’s not easy to do because, well, it’s OOH.

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Fuck, well done guys. See you in my next Lyft.

Two Wins By Bonobos

I love the clothes. And apparently loads of other peeps do to given Walmart shelling out for them.

But two things this week caught my eye from Bonobos, the guys who dominate the Millennial menswear market.

First, their POV on Cyber Monday in ‘Ninjas for a Day‘. The idea and concept is smart – show our dedication to our customers by having everyone in the company tackle customer service on the busiest day of the year.

It’s democratic. It’s relatable. It communicates value of the customer experience. It’s above and beyond. And it’s PR-worthy.

Sure, the email with the video came through a bit wonky and the production value of the video likely could’ve been a bit higher, but it shows what the company believes in by choosing to spend marketing dollars on an initiative, not just some X% off on Cyber Monday.

Second, this partnership with Give Back Box. Whoever stands to benefit from this financially is irrelevant, because this is more a brand reputation and values play for Bonobos, while helping do some good in the world.

It’s efficient. Costs no money for them (as far as I know) and reiterates a level of ‘good’ about the company that leaves me (the consumer) feeling better about a purchase with Bonobos.

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Put these two things together and they’re starting to seem like a pretty great, grounded brand that I’ll continue to buy from.

Nike stores aren’t stores

Back in May, I went into the Nike SoHo store and was blown away.

It’s not a store, that’s the thing. It’s an experience. It’s a museum. It’s a showcase. No one’s trying to sell you things – they ask if they can help or simply just let you wander.

The layout is so intuitive. Each floor is different – whether that’s sports or types of clothing.

The best part? THERE’S NO CHECKOUT COUNTER. Every employee must know everything about the store – AND be able to check you out. They all have cell phone checkouts so you can buy wherever you want in the store. So efficient. No waiting in line.

And by having amazing displays in the upfront, everyone is drawn into the store, take pictures and stay longer. Which means brand engagement and more time in-store to help drive purchase.

So many things another brand with brick-and-mortars can takeaway.

 

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On being tech timely.

Being ‘culturally relevant’ is a good thing.

When culture is buzzing about a topic, finding a way to join in on the buzz without seeming like a parent trying to hang out is a good thing.

Good because it shows a brand is up to speed with what’s being talked about in real-time. Making them seem cool, relevant and human. Not corporate and formulaic. And if it has to do with tech, then it shows a brand is ‘one of us’.

Good example of being culturally-relevant? Today, the tech world was buzzing about Twitter doubling their character limits. And the Yankees social media squad nailed it.

Timely. Creative. Shareworthy. Polarizing. PR-worthy. BOOM.

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A funny thing happened…

I went to therapy tonight. On the subway back, I didn’t take my phone out. Once. 45 MINUTES.

A woman sat down next to me. She had the same LL Bean camo tote bag that I gave my girlfriend. We had a conversation about it.

Chances of me saying something had I had my phone out, aimlessly browsing a bunch of bullshit, are about zero.

Moral of the story? Put your goddamn phone away sometimes. I legitimately feel like a happier human after doing so.

Then watch THIS.