I’ll start with a confession: I don’t really like shopping, which is a surprising admission for someone who’s worked with enough retail technology companies to populate a small mall. My idea of a great shopping trip is spending five minutes on my laptop, finding a reasonably good deal, ordering what I need online, and then calling it a day. I’m one of the millions of reasons why ecommerce sales continue to skyrocket, year after year. (And yes, my Amazon Prime account gets a hefty workout every week.)
Here’s my second confession, though: I love observing retail trends and the creative ways that retailers are reinventing themselves to get people off the couch and back into their stores. And what’s happening at the Domain, Austin’s premier shopping destination, is particularly intriguing to me. Retail is transforming at a dizzying rate, and the Domain is a microcosm of the changes in the industry.
For those of you who live outside Austin, the Domain is a thoughtful mix of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices – and a hugely popular Whole Foods – that’s known as Austin’s “second downtown.” It transformed 300 acres of formerly vacant Texas scrubland into a dog-friendly, family-friendly destination that’s fun to visit – even for a shopping curmudgeon like me.
I’ve had multiple occasions to visit the Domain in recent months, and each time I’ve come away convinced that it exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance.
Clicks to bricks
Warby Parker, Away, UNTUCKit, Bonobos, b8ta and Casper are some of the hottest e-commerce brands around. They all have brick and mortar stores at the Domain, too, along with Amazon Books, as my fellow KGer Amanda noted in a blog earlier this year. Physical stores are playing an increasingly important role for online retailers, and some of the best can be found at the Domain. (Tip for Amazon power shoppers: take your returns to the Amazon Books location. They’re happy to take them, and they won’t mind if you purchase a book or two while you’re there.)
Turning shopping into an experience
“Experiential retail” is one of the biggest themes in retail right now, as evidenced by the 13.4 million search results on that term in Google. Retailers are focused on creating experiences you simply can’t get online – for example, sampling the coolest tech gear on the planet at b8ta or trying out a Casper mattress. But it’s not just about the experience at each individual retailer. A destination like the Domain makes the entire shopping trip an experience, with green spaces, a splash pad for kids, outdoor restaurants, an entertainment district that rivals Austin’s famed Sixth Street, and a compelling lineup of retailers, which brings up my final point.
Making it fun
People flock to the Domain because it’s fun: a great place to take your out-of-town friends who want to shop, eat dinner, let the kids run around, and experience something that’s uniquely Austin. There’s something for everyone, from luxury brands like Tiffany and Neiman Marcus to brands that are aimed squarely at the mainstream. The Domain is anything but boring; and as retail consultant Steve Dennis points out, it’s a bad time for retailers to be boring. The Domain has taken that mantra to heart.
I may not like to shop, but the Domain has won me over. And it reinforces why I love working with technology companies that are helping drive some of the changes in this fast-paced, fascinating industry.