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Authenticity as a Driver of Engagement and Brand Loyalty: Takeaways from Future Stores Seattle

Published July 2019     

Last month, Future Stores hosted its annual conference in Seattle, bringing together top industry leaders to inspire, discuss and debate the future of retail and retail tech. Attendees heard from executives at Best Buy, Walmart, Nordstrom and Sephora, among others, on what’s to come in the rapidly evolving world of retail. Among the many impactful presentations and panel discussions, one theme stood out and defined much of the conversation: the role of authenticity in experiential retail.

Conference attendees got an up-close look at The Lounge at AT&T – an initiative rolled out in 2018 in Seattle that is part high-tech retail store, part coffee shop, part lounge area, and part work space. While experiential retail is far from new, AT&T built on the now common strategy of immersing customers in a brand in-store, and expanded its strategy to focus on immersing the brand and store in the surrounding community. 

As Jeff Bradley, West Region President at AT&T, said “What makes this space so unique is a design and layout that embodies the Capitol Hill neighborhood, the collaboration with a local small business, Ada’s Discovery Café, and an innovative digital shopping experience.”

The collaboration with local businesses and the role those businesses were empowered to play as advisors to AT&T resulted in an authentic local experience AT&T would have a hard time creating otherwise – an experience merging coffee and technology in a way specific to the demographics, preferences and consumer habits of the Capital Hill community.

The company’s approach highlights that a localized experience must be rooted in curated products that reflect local demographics and preferences, but just as important – the in-store experience and customer engagement can – and should – embed itself in the community in an organic way. In fact, AT&T has spoken about wanting its new concept to be a “second living room” for residents of the neighborhood, reflecting a hyper-focus on the integration of brick and mortar and its surrounding community. 

Underneath it all, authenticity reflects both a commitment to brand values, and a commitment to understanding consumers. Authenticity drives trust, and trust drives sales. 

Looking ahead we can expect to see a growing focus on authenticity in experiential retail. That trend coupled with the digitization of retail and the strong shift towards leveraging data to create tailored and local go-to-market strategies means customers can expect even more tailored and elevated in-store experiences in the future.

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