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Stores Stay Relevant in Real Time with Responsive Retail

Online tactics make their way to brick-and-mortar stores, giving new dimension to the offline experience.

We’ve all been there – browsing a brand’s eCommerce site and get served up “other items we may like” or things that are “popular with other shoppers.” This responsive shopping experience is commonplace on the web to help users discover new items or inspire another purchase. And offline retail is taking note. Some brands are now finding ways to offer real-time recommendations and personalized merchandising in-store.

This responsive model, or “live store” concept, can leverage user data (presented by apps, polling, and online purchase records) that identifies the most relevant, desired, and value-adding items in their collection to decide what shows up and stays on shelves.


Nike’s first live store, Nike by Melrose, opened in Los Angeles in 2018. The store adapts its inventory based on the insights and behavior of NikePlus members in the area, allowing the brand to hyper-localize “apparel, footwear and accessories based on LA’s needs regardless of Nike’s broader seasonal priorities,” as noted on the company’s blog, in order to “fill the store on a bi-weekly basis and sometimes even exclusively.” Nike is leaning into this model and has more neighborhood-specific stores in the works, including one in Tokyo set to open this spring.

While an entire live store isn’t as easy to activate nationwide, Nike has been able to roll out data-driven displays on a much smaller scale by devoting just a single fixture or zone to the concept in other stores. At their New York location, for instance, a “now trending” station has a rotating collection of merchandise that’s popular in the area.


Amazon is also finding opportunities to leverage data in ways that add value for their shoppers, especially as they continue to refine their approach to brick-and-mortar retail. Their bookstores do this particularly well by translating the shopping behaviors and reviews of online users and Kindle readers to inform the merchandising of their physical space. Displays around the store are devoted to books that are “Highly Rated: 4.8 Stars & Above,” “Most-Wished-For-Books on Amazon,” and even city-specific displays like “Nonfiction Top Sellers in Chicago.”


Aside from changing out inventory to shift with any single city’s product preferences, retailers can still tap into responsive messaging through digital signage and display systems. Walgreens is now testing a new line of digital cooler doors equipped with cameras and face-detection software. This technology will allow the cooler to determine a shoppers’ perceived gender/age and take note of what’s in their cart to present ads that are relevant to them (on the virtual shelf strips) while providing shopping insights and inventory data to the retailer and brands.

By finding opportunities to leverage online and offline data that can influence and flex in-store merchandising, retailers can be ahead of the curve and stay #trending.


Glenn Madigan is an Associate Creative Director for Arc’s Retail Design Group – a team devoted to building fully immersive, sensorial brand activations & experiences.

March 29, 2019