What Retail Can Learn From Hospitality & Real Estate

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\"rr-retaillearn-montgomery\"In the ultra-competitive world of retail, sometimes innovation and a sustained competitive advantage can be hard to find. Especially when it comes to winning the hearts and wallets of the millennial shopper. As “The Robin Report” has covered, millennials have high expectations of quality and luxury, but never want to pay for it. More than anything, community and brand message matter to them, making it hard to win longtime loyalty without either.

Sometimes observing how other industries are handling these problems can provide a jolt of clarity. Two industries that are currently at the forefront of winning millennials’ favor are hospitality and real estate. There are many interesting companies in these markets that are using technology to better deliver an amazing physical experience, something all businesses should be keyed in on.

By focusing on experience, access, and community, smart companies are building loyal followings and helping upwardly mobile millennials transition to the next important chapters of their lives: where to live and where they will work. Here are three examples of businesses the retail industry can learn from.

Hello Alfred

Billed as the “personal butler service,” Alfred is helping change the millennial home experience by combining two powerful forces: curation and free time. Alfred brings a touch of high-class hotel life into any home. They do your laundry, stock your fridge with perfect items, and take your things to the tailor, learning about your personal tastes the entire time, with basic services starting at $32 per week.

Founded by Jessica Beck and Marcela Sapone, Alfred was born out of a single problem: how do young professionals find any time to get nitty gritty personal tasks done? The answer: your personal Alfred. You’re assigned a designated personal assistant, and the easy-to-use online interface makes it simple to schedule recurring tasks (stocking your fridge once a week, dropping off dry cleaning every Friday) as well as those last minute problems that can derail a whole day (forgetting your gym shoes at home, or realizing you need someone to sign for a package). All Alfreds receive hospitality training, are given routine background checks, and can make up to $25 per hour. Best of all, where the Alfreds’ in person services end, the software service beings: the more times you use the service and the more data you give it, the smarter it gets.

As these personalized services continue to develop in the residential market, it’s time for retailers to add elements of the Alfred experience to their customer service strategies.

Luxury retailers should take note of Hello Alfred’s white glove services as a benefit of purchase’ such as an enhanced tailoring/ fitting experience, or a 45-minute consultation with a personal stylist as added value for a new purchase. And it goes without saying, that smart machine learning is an asset iteratively learning more and more about millennial customers’ preferences, personal tastes, shopping habits and dates for special life events. https://www.helloalfred.com


Launched in 2010, WeWork has already created tremors felt by the commercial office real estate market. WeWork is not your traditional real estate/development company. Instead, WeWork has created a marketplace for individuals and companies to easily book affordable workspaces in beautifully designed spaces, with a slew of shared community driven access points.. Single desks in New York start at $245 per month, and a private office at $450, including all  the access to amenities.

So why is it different? Dubbed “Programming for Real Estate,” by its COO Artie Minson, WeWork takes its cue from the programming community and the seamless way it onboards new customers and gives them a huge amount of flexibility and control over their user experiences. Even if you pay for just one desk, you receive a private room, fiber-optics speedy wireless, and the ability to use all the public amenity spaces. These benefits include a stylish group work area, a fully stocked kitchen with artisanal snacks, ping-pong, and of course, a daily rotated  keg of craft beer.

And there is space to cheaply and efficiently grow as one- to two-person companies scale up. It’s simple to add new desks, and more importantly, change locations. When you buy in, you buy into seamless movement across 111 offices in 32 different cities. This blend of personalized, highly designed and community-driven workspace is extremely attractive to a new generation of millennials who find it easier to start their own companies rather than work through the classic chain of command at someone else’s.

WeWork pairs high design with high flexibility and ease of use. With limited commitments, and ease of location  changes, WeWork is tapping right into the wanderlust and rootlessness of the millennial generation. Retail can look to incorporate some of these qualities to help retain next-gen customers: frictionless entry into a community and buy-in with membership, a sense of belonging to a community, and ease of access to the same guarantees across multiple stores. Call it a millennial club within the larger retail context.  https://www.wework.com


WeWork, isn’t the only brand taking space-sharing principles into the real estate space. Startup Ollie has honed in on the many services it offers as a part of membership for residential space. Beyond the now-expected perks of access to pools and events, Ollie members are treated to cable, high-speed Wi-Fi, a monthly deep-clean housekeeping service and a weekly visit from a Hello Alfred home manager, all included in the monthly rent, set at local market value.

Apart from a deeper focus on services, Ollie has doubled down on curating members’ living experience through a fully furnished apartment, as well as the soon to be introduced Ollie Box, a delivery service with home accessories selected by Ollie’s design team. Ollie launched their first property, Carmel Place, in New York, with a series of modular micro apartments designed by nARCHITECTS. Each apartment is under 500 square feet of living space, and these units are unfussy examples of how great design and curation can make space feel much more functional. Ollie is tapping into millennials’ desire for flexible spaces that don’t require much decoration or adornment. This is a progression in millennials’ preferences to want fewer things, but the right things, with a slew  of services stacked on top that have become the table stakes expectation.

Retailers can take a page out of Ollie’s playbook by offering subscription-based sampling services geared to micro-apartment living or customers’ personal preferences for a range of thematic products. They can have a personal shopping database with promotions and services for Ollie residents in their retail locations. And, retailers can take advantage of the meta concept of making life as simple and curated as possible for upwardly mobile millennials with partnership programs with Ollie…and WeWork, as well. https://www.ollie.co/spaces/

Lessons Learned

Upwardly mobile millennials want  customized services, and are willing to pay for them. They want nicely designed spaces that make them feel good. They also want communities that are frictionlessly networked and curated.  They want convenience, value and help. Are you, as a retailer, responding to these needs? If you’re not, you are chancing on missing out of capturing millennials’ attention and nurturing them  as loyal customers.



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