Exactly one week ago today saw the Retail Business Technology Expo, Retail Digital Signage Expo and the Retail Design Expo combine to bring a showcase of the latest designs, features and thinking in retail to London. There was plenty of interesting exhibits with impressive features of a retail space, proving just how much detail goes into retail. In amongst the hundreds of displays there were some excellent, thought-provoking talks with guest speakers offering their wisdom on an array of topics.
One common thread linked each talk we were in attendance for: the role of retail is changing. This may seem obvious due to the ubiquity of online shopping, but only a foolish brand would ignore the importance of the in-store experience. Read on for our thoughts on how a few important elements are changing…
The changing nature of retail space
The make-up of high streets and shopping malls is shifting from a place to do shopping to a holistic leisure experience. When almost any item available in the shops can be delivered at the click of a button within ever-shortening time scales, retail areas now must work much harder to draw people away from their computer screens and into the shops. One way of maintaining footfall has been the proliferation of food and beverage brands. These restaurants and bars are destinations around which consumers will organise their days out. They often inject some character, which is generally sorely missed from most retail spaces, as shoppers can dine on specialty cuisine from all over the world.
The changing role of the ‘shop’
In a similar vein to retail spaces, branded stores are needing to work a lot harder to draw in consumers, but brands should still strive to attract shoppers in-store. Branded stores are no longer there as a point-of-sale, but act as an increasingly key touchpoint between the brand and consumer in which the brand can take ownership of every detail of the consumer experience. Many brands are losing control of their customer journey due to online shopping with sites such as Amazon using their own interface and third parties to deliver products. The outcome is a diluted experience. Each branded store must become a pseudo-flagship store through which to deliver on branded experiences. An example of this is the Apple stores that don’t only sell Apple products, but draw consumers in with Genius Bars offering assistance to all Apple product owners.
The changing role of the staff
In an age where information is at our fingertips, consumers are increasingly savvy and know far more about a product before walking into a store than they previously have. A sales assistant was once a go-to source of information to help distressed shoppers match their needs with a product on offer. Shoppers also put their trust in reviews they can find online by peers as a form of social confirmation. So what is the need for the shopping assistant now? In order to continue to be seen an authority, sales assistants must be upskilled to bring some value to the in-store experience. They act as another key touchpoint between the brand and the customer, meaning each individual employee is an ambassador of the brand that should be prepared to deliver on unique brand experiences.
Having a retail space was once essential for carrying out transactions and building on the top line. As other channels of revenue have opened up, the role of brick and mortar retail has shifted, but has by no means diminished: it is clearly still a very important and useful brand building tool if executed correctly.