Should Retail Be Looking To Ice Cream For Inspo?

This is me.

Retail’s officially in trouble. Here’s what it can learn from the Museum of Ice Cream’s new outpost in Los Angeles.

by Maggie Cadigan

Last week, I was a lucky gal. Lucky to have friends who pre-planned an adventure to one of the hottest spots in L.A. Not a bumpin’ bar, or a new hot beach, or a hike with some new coveted view of the city… This was a ticket into the Museum of Ice Cream!! Although ice cream is something that has been near and dear to my heart ever since the ripe age of 16 when I landed my dream job of “scooper” at a local parlor, never did I think I would be this intrigued to hike it all the way to downtown Los Angeles. But, I sure as heck had to get that winning Insta photo.

We arrived for our 9PM showing and were quickly escorted into a waiting room with wallpaper made of donuts, gummy bears, ice cream cones and other fun sundae toppings. While getting warmed up by taking photos in as many weird millennial poses as possible, we were given the only rule of the night (by an old timey-looking ice cream scooper): “spend as much time as you want in each room, but upon #FOMO of your friend’s Snap, you cannot move backwards.” Soon thereafter, we officially entered the museum which consisted of room after room of opportunities to do just two things…

(1) Taste and learn about ice cream related things, whether it be trying frozen mochi, charcoal ice cream or pancake/waffle ice-cream sandwiches, or learning about the invention of gummy bears and how to grow mint of mint choco chip; and

(2) Become the MOIC’s next mini-influencer by capturing what was soon-to-be your social self’s must-post, turned highest engagement rate, top-performing content.

It’s true!

I swam in a pool of sprinkles, and posted it.

I swung in the swings at a banana/strawberry split “park”, and snapped it.

I jumped on a trampoline to document my “hike” to the MOIC Hollywood sign, and boomeranged it.

And, I walked the MOIC “walk of fame” to find Scoop Dogg and Vanessa Fudgens, and selfie’d it… But that one was just for my mom.

It was all a dream… Unlike what the retail business is living in right now.

It is no surprise that retail is experiencing a significant decline in today’s ever-shifting world — some citing that up to 3,500 stores are expected to close in the next few months alone. But outside of the obvious push to ensure their e-commerce games are on point, something has to to be done about the brick and mortar retail experience to lure people back #IRL. If not, JCPenney’s and Office Depot’s will keep closing, while Amazon continues disrupting them with warehouses preparing for the next holiday, further enticing folks to shop online. And — tying into these and other issues we are currently facing — more and more retail jobs across the country will continue to decline (89,000 Americans in retail positions have been laid off since October, according to The New York Times).

The Museum of Ice Cream (a traditional “store-front” retail experience in-the-physical-world location) was clearly #BuiltForMMC (Modern Media Culture). After only 45 minutes inside, I had purchased an ice cream themed greeting card (revenue, check!), Googled how and when I could come back (repeat customer, check!) AND walked away as the cheapest megaphone for the brand (social content, check!). The success of the museum has been unstoppable — solidified again last week when all additional tickets sold out in under 10 hours.

The Internet and MMC have thrown retail a scary curve ball but, why accept it? Someone has to (and very soon, might I add) take this challenge head on and begin to brainstorm on what reinvention in this space means.

Hey retailers, jump on in!

The original innovator, Apple, is altering its lens on the retail experience by launching “Today At Apple”, an educational series re-framing retail experiences as 21st century town squares. Bonobos (launched in 2007) was birthed in our modern media space, with its shops focusing on the experience with the product, not purchasing the product (and recently they have caught the eye of Walmart, who’s currently in talks to buy the hot brand). By looking at brands further into this #BuiltForMMC world, Glossier centers its entire model around a known truth: digital crowdsourcing is a thing, so why not get people to care through letting them help create the actual product?

Clearly many retailers are working hard to embrace change. Could the Museum of Ice Cream inspire them along the way? For example, could:

— J. Crew have GIF/sharable content creator stations just outside the dressing room to send your new look for approval to your compadres?

— Lululemon host more yoga classes in stores, with the added benefit of experiencing (and sharing!) the latest product with the best of the best?

— Nordstrom have a whole area dedicated to social sharing around prom season, putting teens in last year’s prom photos, with their soon-to-be-new dates and corsages?

Can more retailers take cues from my experience at the Museum of Ice Cream to reinvent the industry as we know it? They’ll have to, because the world is changing, whether we like it or not. It’s a whole new sundae.

Maggie Cadigan is a Senior Brand Manager at Mistress.