By Annie Pettit with Charlie Wilton

Compare the experience of walking through stores like Hudson’s Bay, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Sport Chek, and it’s clear that the retail experience includes far more than products on shelves. To remain competitive, strategies for planning the future of your retail outlet need to be scalable, omni-channel, and take advantage of best in class principles. And these strategies need to incorporate all aspects of the business from employees, to merchandising, displays, experiences, rewards, and more.

For instance, consider the employees that each retailer chooses to hire. Obviously, it is important to hire people who have the appropriate people skills and product knowledge to perform the necessary duties. But to be a best in class retailer with a successful future, your employees need to be so much more. Hiring must go above and beyond, and focus on people who demonstrate product and brand obsession, people who can be brand ambassadors, and fearless people who crave challenge.

When it comes to merchandising and displays, think about alternative ways of showcasing products. Retailers don’t randomly place products on the shelf but rather they sort them according to specific criteria. Traditionally, those criteria have been categories (e.g., creams vs lotions vs bars) or master brands. But what if instead products were displayed in colour batches – all the yellows together, the reds together, the blues together. The visual effect of such a rainbow is stunning and it draws people in. Of course, rainbows don’t always need to be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Take the creativity from the rainbow idea and apply it to shades of colours, shapes, or sizes.

Experiences are another important aspect that retailers planning for the future take note of. Which retailers do you know that create unique experiences for their guests. For instance, Lego provides loose bricks in the store for kids to play with. Comic book and game shops have created play areas where people can test out the newest games or even come on a regular basis to meet their friends and play their favourite games. Expand these personal experiences beyond the store to out-of-store and online experiences.

It’s no small task to remain a retailer of the future but with some strategic guidance, you too can succeed.