McKinsey Opening Test Lab Store In Mall Of America

September 26, 2019 by Dave Haynes

The huge management consultant firm McKinsey & Company is opening a retail test lab store tomorrow that’s designed to try out and analyze different technologies touted to transform shopping experiences.

The store – called Modern Retail Collective – opens Friday at the vast Mall of America, in suburban Minneapolis.

McKinsey says this differs from other test and concept stores of the future that have bubbled up through the years because this one shows the power of multiple technologies working together. Not really sure if that’s an original thought or exercise, but whatever …

The store “will give tech players the “stage” to differentiate themselves and their unique offerings in a real, functioning retail space. This experience will allow them to elevate their value among consumers and retailers and help showcase technology’s ability solve real-life business problems in the retail space.”

Phase 1 of this store includes technologies from digital signage CMS ComQi, Chatter Research, Compass Marketing, FaceCake, Farfetch, Flexa, Microsoft, MSM Solutions, Smartrac, Square, RetailNext and Zebra Technologies.

The store capabilities include “interactive mobile hotspots with single-tap access to product details that allow customers to create virtual baskets” and “smart mirrors and fit predictor software to virtually try on products outside the fitting room.”

The store also promises faster, future payment options like mobile and cryptocurrency capabilities.

The brands in the store for this phase include Kendra Scott, ThirdLove, Eleve Cosmetics and Type A Deodorant.

The store will get a refresh every three or four months of participants – presumably both the tech and brands. McKinsey plans to gather and publish the insights developed over 12-18 months.

The mall is providing the space and the store is staffed by a third-party labor management company.

Interesting. I’ve written about how the boutique retail consultancy High Street Collective has what it calls a Living Retail Lab in Atlanta at a hipstery single-site store, and is doing very specific research on the impacts of specific technologies in specific use-cases.

The McKinsey effort, by comparison, is much more broadly focused. They also have 27,000 people, while High Street is pretty much Laura and Ed.

It’s hard to pass much in the way of an opinion on the McKinsey store without seeing it, other than noting it looks like it would have cost McKinsey a lot of money to build this out, and it generally looks pretty.

I do like that that the tech seems to focus more on practical matters like helping decision-making and speeding transactions, as opposed to some whiz-bang futuristic stores that just throw in stuff that looks cool, like touchscreens, gesture, hologram thingies and see-through displays.

On the other hand, this doesn’t seem all that experiential or differentiated from scores of other stores shoppers would see walking the different levels of that mega mall, or many other malls.

Time will tell, and hopefully the insights – or at least some of them – are published and available, and not behind a pay wall or subject to a $$$,$$$ engagement with McKinsey.

  1. BrandCap says:

    What place does a consultancy have opening store? On paper, it’s a genius move; but in practice there are a couple of considerations. The outlet is designed to test the effectiveness of new tech and this is crucial, but ultimately, it is the entirety of the brand experience that will weather the true test of time, not short-term fixes.

    It has been announced that a rotating roster of retailers will share the space and that they will be provided with McKinsey’s data analysis on the shopper behaviour. This will clearly offer actionable insight, but more important, will be how the brands use this insight and translate into compelling brand experiences in the future as a driver for sustainable growth.

    Ultimately, slick tech simply can’t be a pillar propping up an organisation’s strategy. Innovation and brand experience has to be marbled through the brand’s DNA. When this is the case, it is well-known that it can become a driver of shareholder value. Furthermore, putting brand front-and-centre of the business strategy clearly points to the most cost-effective initiatives; the ones that will have the greatest impact upon the business. To ensure this store format is not a gimmick and true brand asset, it is critical that customer experience is seen as growth strategy not an add-on, or Amazon will continue to cannibalise the retail space.
    Manfred Abraham, CEO, BrandCap

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