A return to entertainment and community

Retail innovators are rethinking shopping as must-see content and one-of-a-kind experiences

Leaders from two innovative retail startups took the stage at NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show Sunday to offer vastly different — and entertaining — displays of the future of experiential retail.

NTWRK is a flashy update on the concept of home shopping networks like QVC and HSN, aimed at millennial and Generation Z consumers. The mobile platform uses famous guests (think rapper Travis Scott and actor Jonah Hill), exclusive products offered for a limited time, and streaming video and social media content to create shoppable episodes broadcasting live every day to mobile devices. A recent example: One episode featured NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. releasing his new Nike Air Force 1 Utility on NTWRK before it was available in stores.

We’re building a more consistent, newer model for the future that brands can engage with.

Aaron Levant, NTWRK

“We almost want to program our channel out like a linear television channel – tune in for a certain day for a vertical or category you like instead of pulling at you every single day with the same category,” said NTWRK CEO Aaron Levant.

The one-year-old platform has already become a proven format for a new generation. Investors include high-profile people and brands including Jimmy Iovine, Lebron James and Drake as well as Footlocker and Live Nation Entertainment. The blending of content and commerce creates a completely seamless buy — “see now, buy now moments,” Levant said, with conversion rates as high as 5 to 15 percent from total viewership to audience, compared with traditional ecommerce of 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

“We think we’re building a more consistent, newer model for the future that brands can engage with and that sits somewhere between their marketing budget and their wholesale aspirations,” Levant said.

On the opposite end of the retail entertainment spectrum: Camp CEO Ben Kaufman wants families to step away from the screens and go to one of his toy stores that combine shopping and play for the entire family.

Camp is a network of permanent retail stores with rotating themed experiences. Each store — there are three located in New York City, one in Norwalk, Conn., and one in Dallas — looks like an old-fashioned, traditional toy store on the surface. But the stores have a “magic door” that takes customers through a tunnel to a rotating experience that changes every eight-12 weeks, Kaufman said. “It’s theme-based. We sell toys, we sell gifts, we sell apparel. Every surface is a blending of theme and product.”

Themes include Base Camp, which has products and activities reminiscent of a traditional summer camp, Travel Camp, Cooking Camp and the current holiday experience, Toy Lab Camp.

There are three components to the business model, Kaufman said: selling products, selling tickets to experiences such as magic shows and concerts, and offering sponsorships that allow brands to tell their stories.

“Being part of a family’s schedule is a big opportunity,” Kaufman said. “We believe we can build an enduring brand, and if you do this right, you can built a brand that the kids who are being brought to Camp today will grow up and want to bring their own kids to Camp.”

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