What Always Stays in Vegas is Reinvention

A Convention Capital, Revived and Renewed, Hosts ICSC RECon for the 30th Consecutive Year 

Retail real estate professionals from around the world—a projected 30,000-plus—are set to stream through McCarran Airport next week, heading for the annual ICSC RECon at the Las Vegas Convention Center. They’ll be among the 36 million people expected to visit this desert oasis in 2015. Bound for business or pleasure—or probably a little of both—few visitors realize the city awaiting them is in a constant process of reinventing itself. And why not? After all, Las Vegas has reinvented the Great Sphinx (making it even bigger than the original), the Pyramid of Luxor, the sidewalks of New York  and the Eiffel Tower right here in the desert, along with erupting volcanoes, pirate battles, medieval jousts and a bay full of sharks.

From Sin City to a Desert Disney WorldThats Vegas

Known originally as a mob-ruled casino-centered getaway, Las Vegas evolved over time into a glamorous playground for celebrities and high rollers alike. Then came the conventions with three major meeting venues, making the city one of the world’s top spots for major business events like RECon (whose first Las Vegas convention was held in 1985). In the 90’s, family tourism became the draw with the city promoting its affordable hotels, great weather and wholesome new attractions like the world’s fastest zip line, spectacular rides and a world-class aquarium. Now, Vegas has donned a new hat: unsurpassed entertainment delivered 24/7 for just about everyone. And there’s plenty of accommodations for all. The Las Vegas Strip alone (which is technically in the town of Paradise) offers 62,000 rooms in 15 of the world’s 25 largest hotels.

Beyond The Strip, a Slice of Silicon Valley Offers Economic Diversity

Yes, the Strip does glitter. Its 15,000 miles of neon tubing make it the brightest spot on planet Earth, as seen from space. But not far from its bright lights, Las Vegas is reinventing itself again in the Fremont East District with The Downtown Project. Thanks to $350 million in seed money from Tony Hsieh of Zappos and the support of the city government, TDP Ventures, an umbrella organization, is adding a slice of Silicon Valley to Sin City. Their goal of diversifying Las Vegas’ tourism-dependent economy with a tech element is off to a strong start. In addition to the Zappos headquarters, the Fremont East District is alive with new development that houses tech startups, healthcare centers, co-working spaces for entrepreneurs, and education initiatives, plus retail real estate in the form of spas, restaurants and shops. Its core is Container Park, a unique open-air mixed-use venue and potential retail real estate trend setter, built partially from 43 repurposed shipping containers. A “parklet,” focused on desert flora and fauna, is being developed in Container Park in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy—not an organization you’d expect to see in Vegas.

Optimism Soars as Vegas Real Estate Rebounds from 2008 Implosion

Las Vegas’ hyper-aggressive development in the early 00’s meant that the crash of 2008 was especially devastating. In fact, the city was among the hardest hit in the nation, with over 70 percent of homes left “underwater.” With tourism tanking in the economic downturn, unemployment eventually topped 14 percent.

Today the ever-resilient city is back and better than ever. Tourist visits broke a record last year. Single home sales are climbing, and unemployment is down to 6.8 percent. New residents continue to pour into the area, attracted by both the desert climate and a cost of living well below the national average. Named to Bloomberg Business’s list of America’s best places to live, Las Vegas, the Great Reinventor, seems once again to have beaten the odds and come out a winner.

Tech-Driven Marketing Continues as Top Retail Trend

Platforms Roll Out New Features to Connect Shoppers and Merchants

The second quarter of 2015 has just begun and already we are beginning to see those New Year’s marketing predictions evolving into actual retail and retail real estate trends. We could start with all that’s happening with mobile but that platform has moved out of trend status into business as usual. If you’ve got any doubts, just consider the growth in mobile-only Facebook users last year: a whopping 34 percent. Trend watchers observe that mobile is no longer a secondary channel but a primary conduit to the marketplace. And on mobile, social media plays a major role. Let’s take a look at five of the new moves happening in that fast-changing medium. How many of these have you spotted?

Paid Amplification: The Growing Cost of Social Media Marketing

Facebook and Twitter, the big players in social media marketing, are feverishly monetizing their platforms with promoted/sponsored posts and tweets. Given the new algorithms in place on Facebook, marketers can no longer rely on organic engagement to get their messages out. “Free” posts are simply lost in the torrent of updates on most feeds – particularly those of active social media users. Facebook and Twitter are costing more, but media dollars invested in sponsored posts are paying off in sharper demographic targeting and deeper user engagement.

Instagram: Where Images Rule

There seems to be no stopping this image-based network which now boasts 200 million monthly users. No longer a place to just share pictures, Instagram has captured the attention of marketers promoting brands with strong visual appeal. A recent Social Media Marketing Industry Report (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/SocialMediaMarketingIndustryReport2014.pdf) says that 42 percent of marketers surveyed plan to increase their Instagram use this year (up 6 percent). With video and targeting options now available, Instagram looks more appealing than ever. Some of the big names embracing this retail trend include Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Tiffany & Co, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Gap and Target.

Blogs and Vlogs: Engaging the Audience, Building the Brand

Retailers’ blogs are proliferating and growing ever more sophisticated in terms of design and content. Among the leaders of the pack are “The Blender” (William Sonoma), “The Apron” (Home Depot), “Aerie” (American Eagle) and “The Thread” (Nordstrom). These e-zines showcase merchandise but also offer DIY advice and opportunities for users to add their own content through themed events and contests. Video is making inroads here, but to see an outlier in retail “vlogging” check out Wine Library TV on YouTube. Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of the online wine retailer, does a weekly review in typical YouTube style – authentic, offbeat and far from slick – but very popular. Trend watchers say more retailers large and small will be “vlogging” in the future as video continues to dominate contemporary communications.

Social Shopping: Buy Buttons Promise Increased Sales

Tested successfully by Twitter last year and soon put into trial by Facebook, buy buttons on posts and tweets will enable users to order items seamlessly (see it, buy it). It’s the impulse buy taken to new heights. The sharing aspect of social media promises to amplify the message and lend the all-important endorsement of a friend or follower. Other platforms are following the leaders in this retail trend with Tumblr recently announcing a test. Pinterest, seemingly a natural for buy buttons, also plans an exploration. This is one retail trend that’s poised for takeoff.

Interest-Based Social Sites: Sharing Things That Matter

Emerging social platforms like Foodie and Fitocracy are building their online communities around shared interests. Like the special interest magazine of the print world, these up and comers stress focus. While they will initially provide a place for people to share their enthusiasms, experiences and inside tips, it probably won’t be long before promotional opportunities open up in sponsored posts.

With three quarters left in 2015, expect to see these retail trends take the role of social media marketing to a new level.

Great Expectations: The “Omnis” Want it All and Right Now

Omnichannels Next Big Challenge: A Retail Trend is Evolving

Omnichannel is now the name of the game. Successful players have created (or in the process of creating) the consistent shopping experience that links online with brick and mortar for a seamless presentation of message and offers. But there’s never any resting on laurels. Here comes the next wave of challenges in marketing to the “Omnis,” those multichannel shoppers who are the retailer’s most valuable customer. This is a retail trend that just won’t stop.

Who Are These Omnis and What Do They Want?

Today, nearly everyone is a cross-channel shopper, buying both online and in-store, but not necessarily weaving the two together into a single experience. That’s what the Omni, a different breed, does. Quite simply, the omnichannel shopper is the shopper you want most. Each one spends on average 50 percent more than their single channel counterparts, with a lifetime value that is 30 percent greater. Digitally powered, they have changed the nature of shopping from a simple transaction to a journey that is dynamic and continuous, a journey that has them bouncing between online and in-store in search of the best merchandise at the best price. The Shopify blog calls the omnichannel shoppers by the acronym “SOLOMOs,” which stands for SOcial, LOcal, and MObile and means that this valuable group is influenced by SOcial media, focused on LOcal brick-and-mortar stores and inseparable from their MObile phones. Eight in ten of them, according to “Beyond the Checkout Cart” a report from MIT, do research with their phones while in-store shopping.

These tech-empowered consumers exhibit elevated expectations about shopping. They are accustomed to the seamless experience finally in place between online and in-store, but now they are looking at availability and delivery as must-haves. When they visit a brick-and-mortar’s site, they want to see the full inventory available to them locally. They want to know where to find their item. If they buy online, they want free in-store pick-up or expedited free delivery. And, if a retailer can provide personalized service, so much the better. So, the next wave of omnichannel retail trends is rolling in right now.

Be ready to catch it.

Meeting the Omnis’ Unique Needs: High Tech and High Touch

Retailers can meet the Omnis’ needs on two fronts. The first step is serious investment in the technology needed to create localized fulfillment operations, inventory management, and customer profiling. The second is to develop a team of tablet-enabled sales associates who can provide information and support the Omnis’ shopping goals. Accessible data can help them expedite orders, locate merchandise, reward loyalty with special offers on the spot, and upsell or make suggestions based on knowledge of the shopper’s profile and history. Retailers and retail real estate management companies should guarantee the availability of free and reliable wi-fi storewide to accommodate the “personal shopping assistants” that every Omni carries in the form of a mobile device. If they can’t connect to wi-fi, the Omnis won’t stay for long or be back soon.

Social Shopping Apps, Another Omni-Inspired Retail Trend

Major retail players like Ikea, Macy’s, Home Depot, Walgreens and Target, among others, have introduced branded shopping apps that provide store maps, inventory overview, QR codes, coupons and special offers (many of the latter delivered in real time during the shopping experience). Expect to see more of these.

It’s a safe bet that it won’t be long before the ranks of today’s Omnis are joined by other tech-enabled shoppers – especially as the younger digital natives begin buying in earnest. That may mean of course that the core Omnis will grow more insistent on yet a new set of shopping must-haves. Stay tuned.