Retail shopping on wheels
How retail trailers are changing window and online shopping
“Don’t talk to strangers.”
It’s an age-old piece of advice that parents tell their children. In today’s world of technology, we’re clearly dismissing it. Technology has made us more trusting, or at least we’re more optimistic. We get in strangers’ cars to run errands. We let newcomers into our homes to walk our dogs. We invite outsiders in to hang out at our residences for their vacations. We even let unknown people unpack our groceries.
Still, though, we do raise an eyebrow at some things. Ironically, many of us are still skeptical about anything that doesn’t breathe (ex. apparel). We want to see, feel and test out clothes, shoes, makeup, furniture and more before we’re willing to bring them home. Sometimes we use pay-you-later options just so we can send the product back if we don’t like it. Online shoppers often zoom in on refund/exchange policies and warranty agreements, already plotting a Plan B. We just don’t trust products without getting familiar with them first.
So how can startups with new products figure out a way to get their products to people’s homes when malls and retail stores are struggling to do it? How can independent retail shops get their products invited in as easily as vacationers, ride-sharing drivers, dog walkers and grocery delivery people? One way is to find customers where they are instead of trusting that they’ll find lesser known products online or in a store.
Retail trailers are a primary example of a way to do this. While retail stores pay for a space in malls and struggle to make rent (and a profit), startups, small businesses and even some larger companies are skipping the years-long lease to go straight to the customers.
“We’re starting to see more retail trailers in a wide variety of ways,” said Justin Potts, the Marketing & Business Development Manager for Advantage Trailer. “For example, Kroger supermarket is using our trailers both as a mobile food pantry and to hand out products at events. Retail trailers help smaller, up-and-coming brands.”
“Maybe they can’t yet afford a brick-and-mortar location. Or, they simply don’t want to be tied down to one location and locked into a lease. But they can invest in a retail trailer and build a following throughout their market. That’s where we’ve seen the biggest growth so far.”
Advantage Trailer has been behind Lash Bar in Utah providing salon services in their mobile boutique; a concession-style retail trailer for Car Chix motorsports organization; and even a 24-foot stage trailer for Spiderz Batting Gloves to sell sports equipment.
For passersby who see a retail trailer pop up completely out of nowhere, it creates a sense of urgency for the customer. Who knows how many days this retail trailer will be there? Or, will it disappear altogether into another neighborhood by tomorrow? Will the retail trailer hang around during rush-hour traffic or find a less crowded street of pedestrians?
If you’ve ever been to any of the 4,000-plus food trucks around the United States, you’ve experienced the scavenger hunt of trying to find your favorite trucks. Finding Waldo or Nancy Drew is probably easier to do.
“Food trucks have paved the way,” said Potts. “But retail trailers add something new. They are an evolution of the retail industry that benefit large brands looking to get out of the box, small brands looking to grow their brand, and consumers looking to save time and make a personal connection with a brand.”
Sometimes a casual walk down the street can lead customers into buying something they had no idea they even knew they wanted nor needed. Hit up a food festival and end up buying a new outfit from a retail trailer. Stroll through a music festival, and a mobile vendor may introduce you to a cool new pair of shoes. Walk across the street during your lunch break on Casual Friday, and come back to the office with a fully made-up face and a bag full of cosmetics. These mobile shopping vendors are finding creative ways to bring their products to customers who may have never set foot in similar stores or malls.
And if the vendor behind the retail trailer is worth his or her weight, this company will already have a website set up for repeat customers. So even if you just don’t have the energy to zoom around town to find that trailer again, at least now you have a better idea of what else you should welcome into your home. But while you have them in your eye sight, try on and buy on before they drive on — to the next set of potential clientele.