Supposedly, retail is not a world you want to be operating in at the moment. You only have to walk down a UK high street to see shuttered storefronts and recognisable names closing their doors for good.
There are many explanations for this growing trend, difficulties across international politics and businesses being a particular culprit. But take a look at the retailers that have closed. What many of them seemed to lack was the ability, or at least desire, to innovate. To recognise what their customer was now looking for and to change accordingly. Cathy Sparks, Vice President of Nike’s global stores put it best when she said, "Traditional retail is going to struggle. At Nike what we talk a lot about is that retail is not dead, but boring retail is dead."
In 2020, more than 80% of US retail transactions will still happen in-store according to a report from McKinsey. In-store still matters; your consumer is just demanding more. A buying decision is now more complicated than ever and so customers are looking for different ways to interact with the brand. And what do they really want? Experience, experience, experience.
This new wave of retail is not about pop-ups but about brands that have decided to invest time, money and resource into a permanent store. Craig White, senior project director for King’s Cross and Coal Drops Yard said of the project: “It’s not about consumption – you can get that online – it’s about delighting people…All the brands here have raised their game and offered multi-purpose creative spaces.”
Many digital, online-first lifestyle brands are recognising the importance of having a physical presence, of providing their loyal fanbase with a tangible experience. They are taking designs from online shopping and blending them with the best bits of shopping in an actual store to create beautifully immersive, imaginative and unique brand worlds.
Although it may be difficult to determine ROI from an experience, it’s about playing the long game, hoping that brand engagement over time will lead to sales. Geometry recently unveiled an immersive space called the Flagship that will allow brands to experiment with, test and trial 15 different types of technology that can influence shopper behaviour and purchase decisions. The space has been designed to help create seamless digitally influenced, physical retail experiences.
The focus here is not on sales but rather on creating and maintaining a relationship with the consumer. By entering a physical manifestation of the brand, you are immersed in its culture, you become part of its community.
The high street may be changing but, from a consumer’s perspective that’s for the better. Brands need to ensure they’re staying unique, creating a community and above all else offering something that makes a consumer happily reach for their wallet.
Below we explore the brands willing to innovate, adapt and mould their retail spaces to suit our experience age.