Macy’s Opens ‘One Below,’ New Floor In Flagship Aimed At Millennial Audience

The space will be equipped with a blow-dry bar and a selfie wall — but an updated digital strategy is what will really draw in shoppers, says Kwolia’s Anne Marie Stephen.

It’s fair to say that Macy’s draws plenty of visitors to its famed Herald Square flagship. But as of 2013, the average age of the historic department store chain’s female clientele was 50.6 years — a problem considering the massive purchasing power of Millennials and the near-future emergence of Gen-Z.

Enter “One Below,” a 53,000 square-foot basement floor in Macy’s 34th street location, showcasing brands like BCBG and featuring amenities — think salon-style blow-dry bars — and technology, that the department store hopes will speak to young women and jumpstart sales.

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Interactive “selfie wall” at One Below

But while One Below may serve well as an entry point for restructuring the brand’s strategy for reaching younger shoppers, evidence suggests that Macy’s will need mobile and digital ad efforts to back it up — and to let consumers know that the new department even exists in the first place. And while some of the tech in One Below’s “soft launch” is novel — 3D printing demos are featured, and an interactive selfie wall lets shoppers snap a photo with a variety of iconic New York backdrops — issues like wifi connectivity problems in the basement, impeding the social point of the enterprise, are still being ironed out.

“It’s not enough to observe social behavior; it is about being truly social,” said Anne Marie Stephen, founder and CEO of retail-focused tech advisory firm, Kwolia. “You have to have digital fully integrated in order to really get that connection directly to the consumer, and also from a branding perspective of leveraging that content in the future.”

GeoMarketing talked with Stephen about the state of One Below and its success thus far — and where Macy’s can go from here.

GeoMarketing: How do you view Macy’s goal in creating the new One Below department, and will it succeed in attracting Millennials to the brand?

Anne Marie Stephen

Anne Marie Stephen: Well, the goal is to attract a new audience of Millennials, so that they — [particularly] the younger set — start shopping with you, then they can grow up with your brand. In this instance, Macy’s has created One Below on the basement floor of their flagship location, which is part of the 400 million dollar renovation that they’re doing. It’s an interesting investment.

Do I think they’ll be successful? I think it’s a move in the right direction to speak to that particular customer. I think it’s a move in the right direction.

Yes, it’s a step towards taking the initiative to embrace a crucial demographic who may have slipped away from the Macy’s brand. That said, based on what we know about Millennials, their desire for personalized experiences, their reliance on social media… it’s likely to take more than a new store department to capture their attention. As this effort moves forward, what digital elements should Macy’s continue to make part of its marketing mix in order to communicate with these Millennials?

Well, social is such a huge component of the Millennial space, right? One thing Macy’s did with One Below is to incorporate a lot of social elements, like the interactive wall for [shareable] selfies. They’re moving in the right direction. That said, so far, it possesses elements of social without being fully social. It is very different to observe social behavior than it is to be social in a native way.

I’ll give you this example. I was very excited to be in the space; and Millennial consumers could be too. One of the things you want to do is when you’re somewhere cool, and you’re social, is take a selfie or use Periscope.

We were trying to do both of those things. But we were unable to, because the network didn’t allow us to do that. There was simply no connectivity downstairs. And wifi was, for whatever reason, either limited or not working at that time. So that’s something that they [need to fully enable] in order to get the social media element right.

That’s a challenge in general for retail, not just Macy’s. It’s not enough to observe social things, it is about being social. The interactive selfie wall is really cool and really dynamic. You can change the background, you can see user generated content populated on to the screen. But while it’s super cool to be able to look at those images, that’s only one part of the social experience.

You have to have digital fully integrated in order to really get that connection directly to the consumer, and also from a branding perspective of leveraging that content in the future.

Influencer marketing has become a huge piece of the social media puzzle for Millennials. For example, Instagram star accounts like WeWoreWhat have over 1 million followers and have a chance to impact what brands make it into a Millennial’s orbit. How important is this? Is influencer marketing something Macy’s should embrace in order to help new customers discover the brand — and the One Below department?

It’s hugely important to get the message out through a variety of channels.

Let me give you one concrete example of something that has happened in the last month: We looked at a [personalized makeup and beauty product] brand called Ipsy. They were able to do a $100 million series B round. [The ability to raise that round was related to] the connection they made with Michelle Phan, a YouTube star in her own right who has her own audience.

That in itself is one pretty concrete example of how important influencer marketing is.. When you look at $100 million funding, it’s hard to say “no” to something like that —you can’t say that there’s no value.

That was really smart, [and could be something] that Macy’s looks to as a way to target on-the-go, highly social consumers and bring them in-store.

What else did you notice about Macy’s interactive in-store strategy?

As far as what Macy’s is doing actually in the store, once that consumer gets there, I think that incorporating elements of wearable technology — 3D printing and those very visual wall displays — were really interesting.

But I think the other piece that was missing and the significant take away was that there was no interactive content outside of the reflective systems wall. There wasn’t anything interactive in the way of virtual or augmented reality — maybe a visual technology-based fitting room where someone could try on clothes virtually.

Maybe that’s coming. But I just think that would be just a natural place for them to continue the engagement.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.