Successful retail decisions are made when physical space is seen as another media channel, says Ross Bailey, founder and CEO of Appear Here, the online marketplace for short retail leases on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.
Retail is failing when it’s not thinking about audience first, Ross insists. The industry doesn’t think twice about spending huge budgets on Google Ads, but customer acquisition can prove increasingly more valuable through spend on physical footprint, he explains. It’s for that reason, Appear Here increasingly sees the likes of Google or Instagram as greater competition than other brokers.
“[If you’re playing] the audience game that means that as a brand, what’s the best most authentic, great return on investment medium, that I can reach an audience at for that moment in time, for that campaign, for that product, for that season. And if that happens to be retail, you’re going to be making that decision over what you’re spending on AdWords or over what you’re spending anywhere else,” he comments.
Appear Here launched in 2013 hoping to disrupt a long-established market that no longer corresponded to how customers shopped. While commercial landlords demanded an average five-year commitment from brands, customers were dispersing from the high street and shopping in a much more flexible, non-committal way. Today, AppearHere’s short-term rental model – often referred to as the “Airbnb of retail” – sees the company operate an average of 350 stores in London alone at any given time, making it the largest retailer currently operating in the city.
Bailey hopes the model gives brands and retailers much more flexibility to appear and disappear whenever they see fit, rather than wait for the consumer to do so first. For brands across the spectrum, of which he has 180,000 on his platform, there are different approaches however. For luxury names like Chanel, Nike or Netflix, all Appear Here clients, it’s about reaching a new audience or promoting a particular product or campaign; for more independent brands, it’s about creating awareness outside their online bubble where competition is too high without enormous ad budgets, he suggests.
During this conversation Bailey also explains why he sees no problem with an in-store ballpit as a popular experiential idea as long as it is authentic to the brand; how Selfridges’ early retail days inspires him to think about how to bring back showmanship; and why technology, much like children, he says, should be seen but not heard.