July 18, 2013

Wheeling Forward

Cross industry-wide there is a new standard for omni-channel retailing: SO (online), LO (brick and mortar) and MO (mobile technology). As we continue to move towards a globalized economy, companies need to think about how to remain as accessible as possible to customers. However, as of late, businesses are getting even more proactive as they bring themselves straight to their consumers by hitting the streets, literally.

photo via bangstyle.com

If there's one thing we've noticed this summer, it's the food truck-crazed phenomenon striking New York City during lunch hours. From creative boutiques to gourmet food, a large mix of companies are evolving to reach new markets by creating nomadic businesses on wheels. An idea that has since advanced from the traditional trunk show or door to door salesman is giving new meaning to pop-up shops. With a majority of these so called traveling vendors being start-ups and smaller businesses, they encompass more power to be flexible and accommodating to their clientele based on the day, weather and demand.

photo via The Boston Globe

One of coolest things about these on-the-go stores is that many have been completely revamped into mobile paradises from old delivery vans, potato trucks and even former school buses. Not to mention, while most of the time these vagabond businesses can be found parked in their regular whereabouts, many do offer traveling tours as well as private shopping events, video game parties and personalized services like hair cuts depending on the type of business.

photo via wsj.com

So it was only a matter of time until the fashion world caught on and now it's bringing style directly to you, when and where you want it. Mobile (not to be confused with mobile technology) retail is the latest innovation to reshape the way we shop by offering customers everything from clothing to accessories to gifts from both mainstream brands to independent designers to vintage. This new way of doing business allows retailers to create an intimate shopping experience on wheels and cut down overhead costs in the process. Right here in New York alone we have The Styleliner in the Hamptons, the Celebrities Mobile Boutique in Harlem, The Nomad frequently in SoHo and The Mobile Vintage Shop in Brooklyn. However, these on the go fashion boutiques are launching all over the country with Fashion In Motion based in Chicago, The Fashion Truck in Boston, and Le Fashion Truck in LA so keep an eye out in a city near you!

A few weeks ago, we came across The Sketchbook Project, a traveling crowd sourced art exhibition based in the heart of Williamsburg. The best part about this initiative? Anyone can contribute to their ever-growing collection of art by simply purchasing a sketchbook via their website, filling it up with whatever you like, and sending it back. Besides their brick and mortar Brooklyn flagship and mobile library, the project is also available digitally. So far 70,000 participants from 135 countries have submitted work, which is currently on tour for the summer around the U.S. and Canada.

The online grocer Peapod continues to communicate to their customers "shop anywhere, anytime" by taking things one step further and combining the idea of "mobile billboards" with mobile technology. Customers can now scan and shop for groceries on the side of Peapod's delivery trucks using their smartphones. To cater to their east coast clientele, the trucks will be parked at things like ball parks and concert venues this summer.

In Portland, also known as a mecca for cyclists, it's no wonder businesses on bikes are booming. From florists to coffee shops on-the-go to a traveling farmer's market, entrepreneurs are on the move and in a fun, cultured and conscious way. Even the city's number one tour company happens to be operated on pedal bikes, further deeming Portland, "America's Bicycle Capital."

The future success of almost any business relies on its accessibility, as more and more retailers become available online, in person and on the go. These entrepreneurs are leading the pack by experimenting with on-wheels strategies. While costs may be low and business responsive to where the market is, as with everything else, there are still challenges. For this nomadic concept to work, a firm understanding of one's customer and the ability to keep shoppers informed about where and when you will be somewhere is crucial. Many of the solutions to these obstacles lies in the fusion of social, local and mobile technology with a dynamism that allows businesses to be adjustable in this new age of global business and consumer driven industries. At this point, it's looking like the best way to figure out what works is to take it to the streets because sometimes you have to work your way up, or in this case around. 

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