WILL.I.AM ON RETAIL: During a panel Thursday in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., at the fifth annual edition of the marketing summit PTTOW!, Will.i.am took companies to task for reducing everyone to down to a price. “We need to stop looking at people as consumers and start looking at what they are, which is people. People that add value,” he said, elaborating that the change in mindset would connect companies to communities rather than marketplaces.
He also had sweeping ideas about the future of retail. When all transactions can be done on devices, he suggested brick-and-mortar stores should not be places for sales, but places for information that is hard to get on phones, and retailers have to invest in proper training so their employees can provide that information. “Retail is important in the future when the people that are working there are experts, and they went to Target College, and they are experts in the community about what the community needs,” said Will.i.am.
Obviously, Jeff Jones, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Target, who joined Will.i.am and Levi’s Brand president Jim Curleigh on the panel, didn’t call for an end to brick-and-mortar retailing as it is now. “We know that the physical world when done well is the best way to discover new things,” he said. Jones did acknowledge that retailers have to up their games especially for young customers whose “notion of shopping is being redefined.”
“We need to find ways to create experience and value in physical spaces that make it different than pure convenience,” he said. Talking about the goods sold in stores and elsewhere, Will.i.am suggested “planned obsolescence” might have had played a crucial role in helping companies grow to where they are, but the ephemera of so much of modern merchandise and technology is making longevity prized. “The modern frontier is how do we make things, when there are more people on the planet and limited resources, [different] from how we did things yesterday?” he asked.
Curleigh agreed with Will.i.am that goods should last. He said his message to Levi’s customers is that they should have fewer, but better clothes. He thinks that will lead to Levi’s acheiving greater closet share. “Let’s create the notion that every individual is a personal curator for everything they want,” Curleigh said. “I think less is going to become more in the future and that’s not a bad thing.”