Macy’s is taking a page from Instagram to invert its shopping experience

Chain execs hope to revive lagging sales by replicating the social media platform in its physical stores. Can cosmetic changes attract online consumers—and perhaps save legacy retailers?

Macys_Instagram_Shopping

Macy’s idea for competing against internet retailers is to bring the online experience offline.

The company acquired the chain called Story a year ago and now is implementing the Instagram-inspired design in 36 of its stores. The layout will feature a rotating display and product selection every two months.

The mega-retailer also hopes to highlight exclusive merchandise, including a Crayola-branded Levi’s jacket for kids. Macy’s is partnering with major brands and dozens of local small-business owners for the promotion.

The campaign comes as legacy retailers struggle to regain their footing, given that many consumers have left traditional shopping experiences in favor of online convenience.

CNBC reported:

Story “gives new customers a fresh reason to visit our stores and gives the current Macy’s customer even more reason to come back again and again throughout the year,” CEO Jeff Gennette said.

The first version of Story, called Color, will be live in 36 Macy’s stores (see a full list of locations below) from Wednesday until June 26, Macy’s said, at which point a new theme will be rolled out. Color will include items from makeup retailer MAC Cosmetics, crayon maker Crayola, denim brand Levi’s and more than 70 small business owners, Macy’s said, amounting to more than 400 products in each space.

The new display also answers a problem that Macy’s and other retailers are facing: unused floor space. Kohl’s has leased some of its excess space to Planet Fitness, and other chains have looked for partnerships to occupy unneeded square footage.

AdWeek wrote:

Story isn’t the only company Macy’s is working with to revive its retail landscape. It was also part of the $19 million Series B round of funding for b8ta, another retail concept that focuses specifically on tech products (and offering retail as a service to brands).

It’s a vital time for the brand to focus on upgrading its retail experience. According to UBS, if ecommerce sales grow to 25% of the total shopping market share by 2026, 75,000 stores will need to close—including 21,000 clothing stores.

The marketing tactic piggybacks the trend of storytelling and narrative in marketing. It also hopes to take on Instagram’s growing power as a sales platform.

AdWeek reported:

“The Story at Macy’s experience feels a lot like a real life version of scrolling through Instagram,” said Rachel Shechtman, founder of Story and Macy’s brand experience officer in a statement. “You discover things you weren’t looking for, but are inspired by all the fun finds—the second you see it, you need it! We aspire to create that feeling with the breadth of the narrative-driven merchandise edit we are bringing to life with the launch of Story at Macy’s across the country.”

In total, Macy’s says it worked with more than 70 brands to bring Color Story to life. Some of those brands include MAC, which has a “build your own palette” area and Levi’s, which is giving customers a sneak peek of its Levi’s and Crayola collaboration for kids. In a statement, Macy’s added that it hired more than 270 “story managers” to train them on talking to customers and actually building out a Story space.

The campaign features unique experiences for consumers, though most products will be inexpensive “impulse-buy” items.

The AP reported:

The typical Story shop carries about 400 items with an average price of about $20. Most of the items are impulse buys that shoppers don’t need like a pizza cutter shaped like a bike or unicorn-themed socks. The Manhattan Story is about 7,500 square feet, while the other stores average about 1,500 square feet.

But Macy’s is also playing up the experience. Macy’s plans events including beauty classes and workshops that teach customers how to design custom patches for their denim jackets. At 30 Story concept shops, shoppers can create their own makeup palettes at MAC stations.

Industry watchers are closely watching Macy’s partnership with Story, which was founded by Rachel Shechtman. She has nearly 300 employees now dedicated to the Story concept and is working on other projects that will help bring more innovation to Macy’s.

Can the new experience revitalize Macy’s sluggish performance? CEO Jeff Gennette took care to temper expectations while extolling Macy’s historic strength.

The AP wrote:

In an interview with The Associated Press Wednesday, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said he hopes the Story concept will get existing customers to shop more frequently, while also attracting younger customers. But Gennette said that having Shechtman, who joined Macy’s in the new role of brand experience officer, is helping Macy’s think outside the box.

“This is not going to change the trajectory of Macy’s, but it does change how we are perceived,” Gennette said. “It’s helping us rethink how we can go much faster and more at the speed of the customer.”

Gennette declined to estimate sales for Story concept, but he said he believes it can be just as successful as Shechtman’s store in lower Manhattan, which is closing with the opening of the Herald Square shop.

Excitement builds online

Online, some shoppers seemed intrigued:

Some industry insiders were excited, too:

Other industry watchers were less persuaded:

In seeking to bring the internet experience offline, Macy’s and its retail partners hyped the new offering where its target audience dwells—on social media.

Internal realignment

The new offering from Macy’s is a chance for the company to change its internal structure and learn from the more agile team behind Story.

Digiday wrote:

The idea is that Macy’s can then learn lessons from its new scrappier, in-house startup. In keeping the teams separate, Macy’s let Story stay agile within a larger machine while still rolling out the Story retail format at scale, something Shechtman said was otherwise going to be a struggle if Story had tried to do it alone. At the same time, Macy’s merchandising and store teams are positioned to look to Story at Macy’s to enact new projects at a faster pace, and any Macy’s employee, in-store or at corporate, can apply to work on Story-related programs or participate in related training sessions.

“Changes at Macy’s need to be implemented faster and better,” said Macy’s chief digital officer Jill Ramsey. “Our goal right now is to look at new areas of the business like Story to improve and overhaul the metabolism of the company.”

Perhaps most valuable for Macy’s and its retail partners is the ability to test new products and messaging in a small environment before rolling out major changes chain-wide.

Forbes wrote:

Part of what made Story so successful was that it allowed big brands to harness information on what works and what doesn’t on a small scale. Target for one used a Story collaboration in 2014 to show its merchants different ways to mix product categories. Other sponsors have included American Express, and health insurer Cigna for a wellness installation.

“It presents us an opportunity to present MAC in a different way to the consumer,” says Chris Good, group president for North America at Estée Lauder Cos’, MAC’s parent company. In particular, Good said, MAC will paying close attention to shopper reactions to efforts to personalize its products, as it is doing with the customized palettes.

What do you think of Macy’s new shopping experience, PR Daily readers?

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