The Evolution of Stores

How to Be Relevant in a Constant State of Change

Store (noun): a business establishment where usually diversified goods are kept for retail sale

According to Webster, that is the definition of a store in its purest form. Oh how the times have changed. This past year brought greater complexity and dimension to the definition of a store. It’s now a warehouse, return center, pick-up location, showroom, experience, fulfillment center, and community hub. But can a single store be all those things at once? Retailers are being forced to reassess their physical footprint and dial up components of this new definition based on e-commerce sales and operations as well as changing consumer wants and needs.

One of the biggest catalysts for this evolved definition has been the growing demand and use of alternate fulfillment methods like BOPIS, curbside pick-up, ship-to-store, and digital return-to-store. A recent eMarketer report predicts US buyers will spend $95.87 billion via click and collect in 2022, a 19.4% increase year over year1. Target shared that more than 95 percent of their second quarter sales in 2022 were fulfilled by its stores2. How retailers successfully utilize the store as a fulfillment channel is no longer an option—it’s mandatory. We believe one of the first places retailers must address is their Back of House (BOH). The space that we affectionately refer to as the heartbeat of the store is often treated as an afterthought by many brands. We encourage brands to Think Outside the Box in this POV that dives into the recommendations on how to start treating your BOH like selling space and a key contributor to your dollars per square footage KPI.

Think Outside the Box POV by WD Partners

During the height of the pandemic, we saw shopping behaviors drastically impacted with more than one-third (34%) of U.S. shoppers adding new brands to their consideration set, 24% adding new brands to the usual mix on their shopping lists, and 13% using the opportunity to discover new brands3. For brands, we know it costs 5x more to acquire a new customer versus retaining a current customer4, and that increasing retention of a current customer is much more profitable as well. Brands can no longer simply look at the traditional path to purchase (and consequently the traditional role the store plays on that consumer road). Instead, we believe that it’s equally important to think about what happens after purchase as that can greatly impact whether that customer comes back to the brand or retailer again. This Wayfind article looks at a few ways brands and retailers can consider actions beyond the conventional point of purchase, and instead consider the path to “repurchase” as an essential moment in the journey.

Building off this idea of the consumer journey and how consumers are engaging and interacting with brands, we’d be remiss to ignore one of the industry catchphrases that lit up this past year—Immersive Retail. Catalog this one with equally overused phrases like “experiential” and “phygital” and “omni-channel”. But truly Immersive Retail is something to explore and delight in. Something that might ignite passion and emotion and pique your interest in new ways. It’s a feeling, an overwhelming moment of awe that shopping (in a store no less) can still achieve. Our EVP, Creative Jay Highland shares his experience with truly Immersive Retail in this Wayfind article. We also interviewed Jay in a WDCast episode earlier this year to talk about how to be a creative catalyst. Jay shares how retailers need to predict and accommodate the different need states of consumers, allowing them to bring purpose to both the space and experience (aka the store).

We believe our role is to dig deep into the problems that brands are experiencing. Once we identify the issues, then we can explore actionable solutions. One of the best methods to start this process is to get into the store and experience it the way customers do. Shoppers have different expectations because certain kinds of experiences have trained them to expect more from an environment than in decades past. Being a creative catalyst and consultant comes with the responsibility to continually learn by immersing ourselves in stores, restaurants, and other retail spaces to understand the shopper.

We started this article with a not so simple question—can a single store be all those things (warehouse, return center, pick-up location, showroom, experience, fulfillment center, and community hub) at once? The simple answer is yes. We had the pleasure of partnering with Dick’s Sporting Goods on the strategy, design and launch of their next-gen concept—House of Sport. A store born out of the changing needs of consumers, “our insights were showing us that while our omnichannel consumption was strong across platforms, our athletes had an increasingly high desire for experience. They wanted the ease and convenience of online, but they also wanted a destination where they could get advice from trusted advisors around the products, try those products out and also participate in activities that support their active lifestyle.” (Toni Roeller, SVP, In-Store Environment at DSG)5. The House of Sport concept was built on: creating a shopping experience that embraced a try-before-you-buy ethos; providing service to the customers via expert associates; emphasizing a sense of community by encouraging interaction and engagement; and immersing customers in the product via various shop-in-shops.

Dick's Sporting Goods Case Study by WD Partners

Will the definition of a store continue to evolve? Most definitely. This is only the beginning. While there is no silver bullet answer or solution, one thing is certain, the customer should be at the center of everything you do. Staying tuned into their wants and needs is the key to staying relevant and evolving your retail locations to meet the always changing demands of your customers. Ready to evolve your store but not sure where to start? Reach out to us at to learn about our passion for creating meaningful customer experiences for the brands we partner with.

Subscribe to Wayfind

Sign up to get trends and insights from the best thinkers at WD delivered direct to your inbox.

Refer a Friend

Use this link to refer a friend to Wayfind

Share on Social

Share Wayfind on your social networks

Back to Wayfind