15 startup and brand leaders who are revolutionizing stores

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  • Shoppers returned to stores in droves as pandemic restrictions were lifted.
  • They often find a shopping experience different from what they remembered before the pandemic.
  • Here are the most influential people shaping the new ways we shop IRL.

After largely shopping online during the pandemic, people are returning to stores in greater numbers. While this shift has meant a shift in strategy for online heavyweights like Shopify and Amazon, brick-and-mortar stores are also adapting.

Shoppers want the best of both worlds: the convenience of e-commerce and the excitement of experiences they can’t get online. Now, retailers are balancing the services they initially deployed as safety measures, like curbside pickup, with personalized shopping experiences and events.

“The store of the future is something you can’t do online – witness the craftsmanship or have the experiences,” said Oliver Chen, senior equity research analyst at Cowen, adding that stores need to preserve what he calls “the magic of retail”.

“That’s what draws people to stores,” he said. “Customers, they want what they want, but they also want to be entertained.”

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said more and more retailers, especially the higher-end ones, have started to “think beyond the products people come to buy” as they navigate towards experiences and become community centers.

Some buyers still prioritize convenience.

“Some customers don’t want to interact with the store too much,” Saunders said. “They don’t want the friction of waiting in line. They don’t want the friction of having to talk to staff members. They really want to get in and out as quickly as possible for their transaction, and that materializes in a lot of manners.”

Connecting stores and e-commerce is essential as shoppers navigate in different ways for the same transaction. Earlier this year, Shopify said it would allow merchants to sync their store inventories with Google so shoppers can search for in-stock items at stores near them.

As shoppers return to stores, Insider spotlights innovators looking to give them a reason to get out and aim to make the in-person experience as easy as e-commerce. Insider’s retail team selected them based on nominations and our retail industry reports.

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