Whether you’ve visited a shopping mall in recent years or stumbled on one of your favorite direct-to-consumer brands in a physical space, the face of retail is ever evolving, keeping consumers, retail strategists and founders on their toes.
Between consumers’ changing needs and a decline in foot traffic at most major malls, the ever present basic need for community and socializing, and the proliferation of online retailers making a case for the convenience of “adding to cart,” D2C brands are becoming more experimental with pop-ups — enticing consumers with more experiential activations.
One female founder whose fingers are firmly on the pulse of current and upcoming retail trends is Melissa Gonzalez, founder of the Lion’esque Group, retail strategist, and author of The Pop-Up Paradigm: How Brands Build Human Connections In A Digital Age.
“In 2009, I made a decision to leave Wall Street, where I was vice president of institutional sales, so that I could pursue my passion. At the time, I was also hosting a TV show and producing independent films, and had a relentless thirst for the creative world. My true breakthrough into what would be my new world occurred when a friend offered me the serendipitous opportunity to partner on a real estate space of his family’s business, The Roger Smith hotel in midtown Manhattan, with the proposal to ‘do something creative with the space.’”
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The rest is architectural-meets-retail history: Gonzalez launched the Lion’esque Group in 2009 and has since become known as “the pop-up pioneer.” The Lion’esque Group helps brands and developers rethink and reformat what’s possible in brick and mortar spaces. Some of its notable clients over the years include Nordstrom, Puma, consignment platform The RealReal, and home decor brand The Citizenry.
This past January, the Lion’esque Group joined forces with global architecture and retail design firm MG2 to form the first merger of an architectural firm and full-service retail design firm to bridge the gap between real estate, architecture, retail, and customer — transforming what retail and malls will look like in the next decade, in the process.
On a larger scale, this partnership showcases how shopping will serve as more of an event than an errand or a “to do”: shopping will become increasingly more experiential, creative, informative, design- and socially-conscious, and a place for people to come together. It’s also an opportunity for a brand to communicate its mission, its values, build community, and create an emotional connection, all while showcasing well-curated product selection and the integration of technology that enables a seamless checkout experience.
I asked Gonzalez to share some of her predictions and suggestions for digitally native brands looking to expand into brick and mortar (whether as a pop-up or permanent location). And since we’ve recently moved into a new year and new decade, Gonzalez also shed some light on the future of retail.
1- Physical locations are, and will remain a tool to fuel online growth.
“It’s where brands build deeper human connections, where they build community with robust in-store event schedules, where they test partnerships and collaborations,” Gonzalez explains. “As a result, we will also continue to see a mix of standalone stores — a.k.a. flagships — pop-up shops and pop-in shops, depending on the market.”