Graham Soult, Retail analyst and Founder, CannyInsights.com
Many retail industry watchers have heralded the death of the high street at the hands of a booming online retail industry. But, while many well-known brands have pulled away or closed their doors, it’s certainly not one-way traffic. In fact, many retailers that started out online are now investing in bricks and mortar stores to engage with customers in new ways. Fashion brand Bonobos and online marketplace Etsy are two prime examples of this.
The real change we’re seeing is that the shop is no longer just a place for retail transactions. We’re moving away from a time where a retailer could simply display their products on racks or shelves and expect shoppers to come flooding in. Why would I fight the high street crowds when I could stay at home and have a product delivered to my door with minimal effort?
This is the age of the experiential shop. Shoppers need a reason to venture outside, and retailers need to deliver an in-store experience that will woo them out of their homes. Apple excels at this. Its shops tend to be among the most crowded on the high street, largely because customers can go play with the latest iPhone, Mac, or HomePod. They can have an army of well-informed experts at their fingertips to answer their questions or fix their devices.
Or how about Dyson, which opened a physical location in Central London that it doesn’t even call a store? Dyson Demo, as its shop is called, is a clever way for Dyson to promote itself in a high-traffic location while giving people a place to live and breathe its brand and products. Just like in Apple’s stores, their staff leave customers alone to browse and interact with products with zero sense of commitment, as they can online. Crucially, sales are secondary to the experience. It’s less important that customers buy something on the spot than it is to delight them into becoming a brand affiliate.
So, investment in experience needs to be a priority for retailers in 2018. How should they invest and what tactics will work best? Here are my tips on how to deliver an enviable and compelling in-store experience:
The high street is in a transition period and will continue to evolve, but the shop isn’t going anywhere. That said, retailers that think they can get away with the traditional shop experience will continue learning the hard way that customers expect more, especially when the competition beats them to it. It’s time to up their game and offer shoppers an experience that will excite them and keep them coming back for more.