C-commerce will define retail in the future.
That’s the opinion of Tal Zvi Nathanel, chief executive officer and cofounder of Showfields, an innovative retail concept on Bond Street in New York that bridges the gap between physical and digital retailing. And he and his partners coined the phrase c-commerce, or consumer-commerce, to describe this concept.
“Counter to public belief, retail is not dead,” he said. Although the streets are like a “crime scene,” littered with failed store concepts, Nathanel said the “two prime suspects,” e-commerce and Millennials, have only wounded retail, not killed it.
Pointing to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, who redefined online shopping, Nathanel said he is actually “leading the charge” into physical retail. Between Amazon pop-ups, Amazon Books, Whole Foods, etc., the company expects to have 3,000 stores in operation by the end of 2021.
And although Millennials are the first true digital generation, they, too, are embracing stores, with 70 percent of them actually preferring to visit brick-and-mortar locations, he said.
As a result, pure-play digital brands including Warby Parker, Untuckit and others, have “extended into the physical realm,” he said.
“What do they all know,” he asked. “Retail is not dead, it’s only evolving.”
From the first grand bazaar in Turkey in 1455 — which still attracts some 100 million visitors a year — to the department stores, shopping malls and e-commerce sites, retail has been undergoing evolution for centuries.
The next iteration, he believes, is c-commerce.
Two years ago, he said he realized that he was enjoying the ads he saw on Instagram more than physical retail spaces. “There are so many amazing things online that do not happen in physical world,” he said, and vice versa. But the customer shouldn’t have to choose. “There’s a way to achieve the best of both worlds and that’s by inventing a new category.”
To capitalize on this, he created Showfields, which brought a collection of formerly e-commerce-only brands together in a physical space. Calling it “the most interesting store in the world,” Nathanel said Showfields is the place “where you can meet with brands and experiences you could not see before.”
And the process is as easy as opening a web site, he said, requiring a few easy steps and three weeks to create a physical store.
“We look at space as a way to create a very fun experience for brands,” he said. “We call them fields. We rethought every part of the shopping experience in a multibrand environment around the customer.” Unlike traditional retail stores with their open lines of sight, Showfields challenged that by forcing the customer to make a decision upon entering and then move in that direction.
The other half of the space is dedicated to “show,” or a revolving series of programming, workshops, art and classes. The top floor offers a 2,000-square-foot open terrace and a 1,500-square-foot loft where companies can engage with their customers.
Nathanel said there are five key components to c-commerce. The first is convenience. Because of the cost, 95 percent of emerging brands cannot open a store, he said. But by using Showfields, it allows them to choose the space, location and message they present in a more affordable way.
Second is content. He said companies shouldn’t think about what their customers can do for them, but what they can do for their customers. Today’s customer is looking for authenticity, he said, adding: “Creating an Instagrammable moment is not enough.”
Third is community. As the world becomes more digital, people are seeking more human connections. “We like to eat, exercise and shop next to people like us. When we feel like we belong, all our guards are down and this creates loyalty.” So understand what community you’re trying to embrace and offer them a physical place where they can interact with other like-minded people.
Next up is curation. “This is our voice and it’s more important today than ever. Being the store of everything doesn’t work for most of us,” he said. Instead, customize the experience for each individual customer — think Spotify or Netflix — to build an emotional bond.
Last is connection. “If we want to bridge the physical and the digital, the customer expects everything to be seamless and to work flawlessly regardless of channel.
These five basic tenets allow Showfields to “connect the dots in a way that makes sense for us, customers and the brands we host in our space,” he said.
He urged other companies to join him in this journey, saying: “C-commerce is simple. Start somewhere, you don’t have to do it all and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but as you amplify each category, one by one, the value increases.”