The convenience of online shopping may be helpful for consumers — but it's often not so good for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers,in recent years. Now there's an experiment underway near Dallas that could be a model for the stores of the future.
The large, open space at the store called Neighborhood Goods features a carefully curated collection of items that are usually only available online. But there's a twist: as shoppers wander around the 14,000 square-foot store, hidden cameras track their moves. That gives sellers a look at who is buying, and how those consumers interact with their product.
Some of the cameras count heads, while others tally information like gender and what objects a customer looks at and picks up.
"Brands right now get an email from us every week that shows you know, sales and feedback from our store staff," said Matt Alexander, founder of Neighborhood Goods. "But it also has, you know, how many people went into your space, what is the general age range, you know, how frequently they were transacting."
The store includes a popular restaurant and spaces to hang out, and offers products from more than 30 trendy brands. One of those brands is Hook & Albert, an online seller of luxury leather goods. The company is testing out new products at Neighborhood Goods, where it gets a treasure trove of feedback and about 20% of its total sales.
"In the future, when we eventually hope to expand on our physical retail presence and have stores of our own… data like that is invaluable for us," said Paul Song, a managing partner at Hook & Albert.
Many shoppers didn't seem bothered by the cameras — and were more interested in the ability to peruse products that were previously only available online.
"When you go and shop in stores, mostly everything is on camera," one shopper said. "You know, you get a ticket, it's on camera, so I think that's just the new technology."
"I feel like in every store there's somebody watching, security purposes. So yeah, it's a good store for sure," said another.
Curating a unique experience is Alexander's goal. Sellers, like Rothy's Shoes, sign a short-term lease for space that sometimes only lasts for a month or two — meaning that shoppers will likely see something new each time they visit.
"Our focus in this room is creating a sense of magnetism to the space that has very little to do with the transaction, and much more to do with that experience," Alexander said.
Neighborhood Goods' next move is into New York City, as companies test different ways to attract eyeballs. One example is Dollar Shave Club, which sells men's grooming products. The company is now testing out a vending machine for their products, installing them in places like LaGuardia Airport and Mall of America.