Pictured from left to right: John Gates, CEO of markets JLL Americas; Mark Brandenburg, EVP of capital markets; Tim Jordan, managing director.<@SM>GlobeSt.com's Natalie Dolce with Michael Zietsman, managing director of capital markets.<@SM>JLL's networking event was held at the Paris hotel here in Las Vegas.

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LAS VEGAS—Those who follow @GlobeStcom on Twitter and @GlobeStLIVE may have already known that the GlobeSt.com team was out in full force last night here in Las Vegas for ICSC’s RECon event. One of the many parties we stopped at was the JLL party, where key executives from the firm took some time to chat with GlobeSt.com about a few ways retailers are differentiating themselves these days, and why it is key for today’s customer.

GlobeSt.com: Why is it important for retailers to stand out and differentiate themselves or their product? I have seen retailers go the route of making consumers feel like they are part of a collaborative, such as REI. Or making consumers feel like they are giving back, like with Toms. Why is this (or isn’t this) something retailers should do?

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Lew Kornberg, national practice lead of retail tenant representation at JLL: There has never been a more empowered and connected consumer. As such, retailers have been forced to raise their “game” in an effort to stay relevant in the eyes of their existing and prospective customers. Differentiation has become a “must” among retailers who want to remain competitive, but rather differentiation has to be thoughtful and meaningful to the consumer in order to work. For retailers to remain relevant and competitive, their point of differentiation has to provide value—be it real or perceived, service-based or tied to its product. The difference needs to matter and if it does not, shoppers can and will take their business elsewhere.

GlobeSt.com: Does gamification work and why? For example, I have heard of Nike Mexico giving people store points for each mile ran. There is a weight scale that tweets out a person’s weight and even an alarm clock that actually gives money to charity for each time the snooze button is pushed. Does this type of gamification work and why is it, or isn’t it important to the consumer. Is it about motivation?

Kornberg: Gameification is a current day example of retailers attempting to find a “hook” that will resonate with the customer. In many respects, it serves the same purpose as an old fashioned coupon. The distinction is the “bait” that has been cast on the actual hook—games are just a means to engaging the customer. The more engaged and interested a shopper is in a competitive landscape, the more likely they are to remain active and loyal.

GlobeSt.com: What about brick/mortar? Is e-commerce creating significant shifts in the retail marketplace and will it continue to do so? If so, how are you seeing smart players adapt? [IMGCAP(3)]

Michael Hirschfeld, SVP of national retail tenant Services, JLL: There is a clear and significant impact that e-commerce has on bricks and mortar, specifically when retailers redirect their resources, like traditional CAPEX for new stores is moved to developing a greater web presence.

We’re seeing companies whose model was e-commerce only, that are moving into a brick and mortar experience. The most successful retailers are always striving to create an “experiential” environment—making the visit to the store a memorable experience. With so many people having so little time to shop, retailers have to do more with less—they need to make the trip to the store worthwhile. This can happen through a number of avenues: social media can create a buzz about a “limited” opportunity, a great emphasis can be placed on customer service and the interaction between customer and retailer often times starts with a greeter at the door welcoming them in and helping to direct the consumer. 

One of the more visible of the offline-online retailers is the clothier BONOBOS. They have opened brick & mortar “guide shops” that dealt with a very important flaw in on-line fashion sales – the need of customers to “touch, feel, try-on,” and just see what an item looks like in three dimensions not two!  The original guide shops were tucked away in office buildings.  The newest ones are on the second floor overlooking a shopping street or actually on the ground floor (See Georgetown in DC). 

The brick and mortar space is being filled with major brands looking to tell their story, their way. Brands occupying larger flagship stores, that interactively sell to the consumer, and the continued growth of “shopping as entertainment” are trends that appear to be accelerating as retail continues to re-invent itself. 

Nike as an example is available through just about every channel imaginable from direct to consumer, multi brand footwear stores, specialty footwear stores, department stores etc. Yet, in NYC alone they have committed to a 60,000-square-foot store in Soho, for example. They are creating the Nike experience as both an event and a branding tool.