NEW YORK—This week, retail strategist and experiential designer Melissa Gonzalez, founder of the Lion’esque Group and principal at MG2, spoke at the final virtual 2021 session of the Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit to discuss the ever-evolving and changing relationship between consumers and the brands and stores they shop. Gonzalez and her firm work in many sectors, from fashion to beauty, to create immersive brand experiences for consumers, driving brand loyalty and interest. All have implications for eyecare and eyewear.

In answer to the VM Summit session "What's A Store For?" Gonzalez said, “it has never been so important for the store to really serve as a point to build human connection and to build customer loyalty.” One of the best ways to do that is to embrace technology, meet customers where they need to be met and, as a result, re-engage shoppers in-store. 

Gonzalez pointed out that it’s vital to ensure changes made to stores are consumer-driven, and that newly-formed customer behaviors spurred on by COVID-19 are reshaping in-store expectations. Most notably, customers expect things like curbside and same day pickup, contactless payment and QR codes when they shop.

In-store technology—and how shoppers engage with it—is also rapidly changing. Lion'esque's research found that two-thirds of consumers surveyed are comfortable with technology in the fitting room, a statistic that points to the growing comfort with—and expectation for—things like virtual try on in the optical space. “People are open to interacting with technology if it serves a purpose for them,” Gonzalez said, and as consumers become more comfortable with this technology they also begin to expect it.

But it’s not just-in store technology that consumers want and expect today—social media, especially live streams on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, help brands expand their reach “way beyond the four walls,” Gonzalez said, and meet consumers where they are. Creating brand awareness and viral impact is exceedingly important in a saturated market and media. Some large brands partner with celebrities or influencers to drive views to social livestreams, creating an even larger viral impact.

Flexible fulfillment is also on the rise—Gonzalez cited Nordstrom’s Nordstrom Local concept, where consumers can order online and pick up in small, conveniently located shops. The experience doesn’t end there, however—consumers can try on their purchase then and there, as well as meet with an on-site tailor, have their purchased gift wrapped if necessary and more. This turns a simple transactional interaction into one that builds connection and drives loyalty.

These consumer-centric decisions “create fandom and drive customer loyalty,” Gonzalez concluded. “It’s always about putting the consumer first.”

This segment, "What Is The Store For?” is an element of the Oct. 27 "Retail & Healthcare: Upended!" which also included an exclusive look at the advent of The Metaverse and a special discussion with leading optical retailers and ECPs on how to prioritize technology change. The virtual VM Leadership Summit and is now available on-demand for registered Summit attendees.
Also available on the exclusive VM Summit platform are many resources from featured VM Summit speakers and On-Demand session segments from the prior three VM Leadership Summit sessions this year—June 23 VirtualEYES on telehealth, Aug 11 ALL CONSUMING on the new consumer and the Oct. 20 session on Rebuilding Trust and Remote Possibilities in remote care access.

The Platinum Sponsors of the 2021 VM Leadership Summit are EssilorLuxottica, Healthy Eyes Advantage-PECAA and VSP Global Premier Program. The Gold Sponsor is The Vision Council's Vision Health Alliance and the Silver Sponsors are Alcon and Ocuco.