Inside a NoHo Department Store's Quick Pivot to a Mobile Brick-and-Mortar Journey
In just a few weeks, discovery-oriented New York retailer SHOWFIELDS reopened its doors and brought its digital strategy to market. Co-Founder Katie Hunt speaks to PSFK about accelerating a unique c-commerce approach bridging the physical-digital divide
PSFK has been following the evolution of next-gen department store SHOWFIELDS since its opening in early 2019. From its debut as a curated, high-design discovery center for digital-native brands, to the premiere of its coworking facility, to its live theatre experience, the art-meets-retail concept has yet to disappoint. And in a touchless 2020, the Bond Street brick and mortar isn't slowing down; instead, it's pouring its innovation know-how into a transformation that bridges the physical-digital divide—unveiling what could be its most magical experience yet.
Accelerated by the times, SHOWFIELDS quickly launched an in-store mobile shopper journey that takes the serendipity of IRL discovery and merges it with the convenience and contactless nature of ecommerce. Called the Magic Wand app, the experience invites store customers to explore with phone in hand, allowing them to scan tags to learn from scores of brands and artists, access narrated audio tours, purchase products and artwork, and much more. In addition, the retailer is holding shoppable weekly livestreams, where artists and influencers host art curations, as well as digital roundtables, which connect brands with expert advisors during this challenging time.
Finally, a recently launched “Go Live” feature allows SHOWFIELDS to directly connect shoppers browsing its featured brands' own websites with on-the-floor reps at the NoHo location. To understand what it took to realize such a comprehensive and speedy digital pivot, PSFK sat down with Katie Hunt, Co-Founder and CRO of SHOWFIELDS—here, she takes us through the physical-native store's journey and strategy, revealing an unyielding commitment to innovation and bigger-picture focus as drivers behind the success.
PSFK: SHOWFIELDS is all about giving digital native brands the opportunity to debut in‑store in a curated, discovery‑focused format. Given that foundation, what was it like to make the pivot to digital, and so quickly?
Katie: One of the things we had working for us is that we're a C‑commerce company (consumer commerce). We do everything through the lens of the consumer and the first platform that we were looking at and reimagining was the physical retail experience, because we know how supercharged that can make a consumer.
There was definitely a couple‑of‑days period where we closed the doors and there was this daunting feeling about what could be next. Within three weeks, we were actually able to launch live video shopping. It had always been on the roadmap for us. We had intended to launch it for holiday of this year. It just took everyone lining up and deciding to prioritize this technology for our business.
We've seen an incredible response. We've onboarded close to 100 brands in the last two months alone. We're now doing five to seven live shows a week, and they're very popular. They're across the spectrum, from cocktail‑making classes to actually getting tours of different people's homes and them showing you what products they use.
For us, it's been a new type of experience, but still in line with everything that we've done in our physical store around storytelling.
You mentioned that this evolution was actually part of your longer‑term plan—so it sounds like it was accelerated by the current situation and not purely in reaction to it?
Yes. For us, we've always liked to think of ourselves as ‘art meets retail,' and there's nothing more ‘art' to us than the audio tour when you're walking around the MoMA or when you find yourself in the Louvre.
The Magic Wand app experience that we launched is an interactive audio tour of our store. We have always intended to have this as part of the SHOWFIELDS experience, where storytelling is so important. Since we reopened our doors at 11 Bond Street in New York City, this became a tool for helping customers to feel more comfortable. We added into it the ability to check out and shop without having to necessarily interact with anybody in the store and the ability to have your purchases waiting for you as you find your way out of the building.
Tell me more about what the in-store mobile experience is like for shoppers. What can they expect?
There's a fun discovery element of it, which is what SHOWFIELDS does. We call ourselves a “discovery platform.” As you're going through the four stories of SHOWFIELDS, you're meeting 40 new brands and 20 different artists.
The app allows shoppers to view hidden keys all over the store. Whenever they see a key, they can just hold the app up and hear about that installation or that brand. They can ask questions. They can see details about different products. They can add them to their cart.
It's mixing the best parts of e‑commerce, which is a space that allows you to dive deep and really understand the product, with the best parts of physical, which is actually having the product in front of you.
We're bridging that gap of that information around brands and that information around art. It feels like you're on a museum tour, where you're learning a lot, which puts the consumer in a discovery-oriented mindset.
Tell us more about some of the other virtual engagement strategies you're leveraging, like the shoppable live-streams you mentioned earlier.
We host them directly on our website. We advertise them across social media and through the tastemaker, who is the host. They're posting about the live show. Leading up to it, we're advertising about it on our newsletter, on our social, and pushing engagement towards our website.
During the video, the items that are featured can be shopped directly from the video, and then once the video is over, viewers have access to these hundred brands that are now on our website.
It's one of the only places in the world where shoppers can have a universal cart across all different direct‑to‑consumer companies and have one checkout. We curate brands that are mission‑driven, art‑oriented, innovative. Shoppers come here and they find reusable Ziploc bags, sustainable vegan beauty brands, art; they're meeting an artist on the other side of the globe—all in one place.
Additionally, we have a go‑live button. Brands who are in our SHOWFIELDS store can allow people who are shopping on their website to go live to their store in our 11 Bond Street location, where the consumer can ask questions directly about the items they're viewing online.
A good example of this would be if I'm looking at Natura, which is a beautiful skincare brand out of Brazil, and I have questions about the product. I don't feel as comfortable leaving my home right now, so I can hit the go‑live button and go live to one of our storytellers in SHOWFIELDS to open the product jars for me and tell me how it smells.
What feedback and responses have you received so far? Who's coming into the store, and what do people think?
Traffic is as always, during this time period, going to be a little lighter than pre‑COVID world. That's good for us. It's a way that we can make sure we're controlling this scenario not only for our consumer but also for our team.
Traffic is down, but intentionality is much higher. We're seeing 3x the conversion that we saw before COVID. If someone is coming in during this time, they are looking to shop.
What's up next for SHOWFIELDS?
Many crazy things in the works! Lots of announcements coming up soon. I think the one that we're particularly excited about is SHOWFIELDS Miami, opening later this year. We have a whole second location with a slew of new technology and crazy experiences that are baked in from day one.
We've found that the experiences within the 11 Bond Street from our stage with Amazon music at events were meaningful to our community and our consumer. So, we've built them into the architecture of the second location with an indoor‑outdoor F&B concept, a speakeasy bar, a member's club, a stage—all as part of the shopping experience.
We're excited to play within that space, definitely much more technology to come. Don't worry, we've always got that baking in the back end, and I think that both our ecommerce and our live-streaming are here to stay.
Lead image photo credit: Aysia Marotta for SHOWFIELDS