Retailers, It’s Time to do Things Like Tesla does!

“Tesla doesn’t do anything the way everyone else has always done things,” says customer experience site, WayfinD. Perhaps that exaplains why their 200 locations aren’t referred to as stores or showrooms, but rather, galleries.

These galleries display an entire worldview of a future without combustion engines. Tesla’s focus seems to be more focused on promoting the brand as much, if not more, than just cars and energy products. In fact, Tesla “stores” are more representative of  Apple or Warby Parker locales than typical car dealerships and whatsmore, they’re hinting at a new future for retail.

Apple Stores trimmed the branding of its retail locations in the last few years, editing out the word “store”completely. Since then, the tech giant refers to it’s “stores” simply as “Apple.”  So, for example, the company’s Union Square location is known as Apple Union Square.

“The store becomes one with the community,” says Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior VP of retail, which goes along with the brand’s repositioning of its locations as community hubs and gathering places. Apple’s philosopy has actually evolved into more of a lifestyle, integrating it’s technology into the daily lives of consumers. There are now bike helmets that communicate with your iPhone, jump ropes that count your hops, and smart controllers for your lawn sprinklers.

 “Other retailers would be wise to follow the examples of Tesla and Apple and accept, as a recent headline in The Atlantic put it, The Future of Retail is Stores That Aren’t Stores.”

~ WayfinD

Unfortunately, some stores are stuck in a one-dimensional mindset. The Gap, for example, sells khakis and jeans. Amazon, on the other hand, sells whatever it wants and does whatever it wants. It’s not just an”Everything Store“, it’s an “Anything Engine.”

And Apple is following suit. It’s not just a tech company any longer. The brand also wants to be an entertainment company, and it’s willing to put out 1 billion on content to compete with Netflix, Amazon, and HBO.

Walmart passed up the opportunity to move beyond a one-dimensional store during a time—about a decade ago—when it was the world’s most dominant retailer. According to WayfinD, its loyal customer base basically gave Walmart their blessing to expand into TV, restaurants, cars, etc., because people believed in the Walmart brand. But Walmart didn’t do that.

Meanwhile, Amazon exploded in consumer culture, going where Walmart had hesitated to go. Amazon’s philosopy is to try anything, because it believes it can do anything. The brand askews hard boundaries on product categories and views convention as the enemy, not the rule book. In other words, there’s no lasso tying it to the one-dimensional box or “store” mentality.

“That’s one reason why what we used to call ‘stores’ in the 20th century can’t survive today. They are still the same. And they are still good for only one thing: transactions. A mere store can’t survive in a consumer culture ruled by Amazon. If stores want to survive, they must become something else entirely. They must become “anything engines,” too.”

~ WayfinD

Going forward, retailers must embrace the idea that there’s no such thing as a store anymore. This type of thinking can then open the mind to an entirely new concept of retail—one, that’s not shackled to the age-old focus on transactions and purchases first. If anything, transactions are the least important thing. Brands must also give up the outdated idea of same-store sales. After all, if there’s no such thing as a store, then there’s no such thing as same-store sales.

Retailers must become—like Amazon—what’s been referred to in this article as “anything engines”. In a broad sense, this means consumers can get whatever they want, anytime they want, and however they want it. Most importantly, it means they can pretty much get it immediately, or at least the same day.

Sound intimidating and a little impossible? Consider this: “anything” doesn’t just refer to products. It also includes information, photos, videos, and communication—things that can get delivered immediately.

“If store brands can’t figure out a bigger vision, they will just become a piece of the “anything” pie. Stores reimagined as Anything Engines get to be something more. Not just one-dimensional sellers of shoes, or books or records.”

~ WayfinD

Proactive retailers that want to move beyond the boundaries of the single-function store should embrace the 3 suggestions below:

1. Start thinking like Tesla, Apple & Amazon

“These spaces reflect a horizon-free vision of brand. There are no limits. No boundaries,” points out WayfinD. Tesla builds rocket ships, Apple’s going to be an entertainment company, and Amazon gets to…well, it gets to do whatever it wants.

Today is an era in which consumers want everything from any company. So essentially, it’s up to brands to decide if they believe they can make anything possible.

2. Reevaluate Precepts About What a Store Is

“If specialty and traditional store brands have any hope of surviving the dominance of Amazon, they must break out of the one-dimensional box and not focus on transactions,” advises WayfinD.

Stores must become a space for identity formation and social environments. They must also provie consumers a place to be “seen” in real life, and begin to view their competition not necessarily as other stores, but the anything engines they carry in their pockets (i.e. mobile phones, which provide multiple services, effecting the broader economy and culture, as well as informing the way companies operate).

3. Evolve or Expire

“Stores simply can’t compete, as they currently function, against anything engines,” says WayfinD. “We are in the first few battles of what will soon become a zero-sum competitive battle. If stores stick to selling one thing, they won’t be selling anything very soon.”

Abercrombie, for example, only sells clothes. Amazon, however, does a million things. They are an anything engine, much the same as a mobile phone is today. The modern consumer expects it. By expanding outside the store mentality into an anything engine mindset, retailers ensure that they won’t be stuck in just one lane.

The Takeaway

Buying is now something that can be done anywhere with the internet and mobile devices, lessening consumers’ reasons for visiting physical locations.

Companies like Tesla and Apple understand the need to be more than a store and have taken steps to move outside the one-dimensional box and offer multiple services that will resonate with Digital Natives and have a broader affect on the economy and culture, as well as ensure their survival.

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.