Fashion retail is undeniably up on its apps, blogs and designer collaborations but there is a need for retailers to consider how to deliver the same quality offline experience as well as online.
Possibly one of the first fashion stores that wanted to tap into the young and hip market - one that sees music as fundamental to the ethos of the company - is Urban Outfitters. At the end of last year, the DJ Jaguar Skills known for his eclectic mixes sold out a live tour of the stores up and down the country.
The youth retailer supports artists by selling their work, creating murals and selling musicians’s albums, an area of its marketing strategy of which it is particularly proud.
A spokesperson for Urban Outfitters commented: “Visual displays produced in-house from reclaimed materials create a unique experience in each store and, along with local art installations and live music, reflect the personality of Urban Outfitters. “
Urban Outfitters Inc comprises of Free People, Terrain, BHLD and Anthropologie. The latter has gained much attention for innovation, treating its consumer to a wonderful world of vertical wall gardens, making it appear to be a cross between a visit to Kew Botanical Gardens and a traditional shopping trip.
A window display at its store opening in Regent Street in the autumn of 2010 featured 1,200 teabags attached to thin cotton strings and suspended from the ceiling to create a snow globe effect.
These may seem to be outlandish and daring techniques to seduce an expectant audience, though Michael Ross, Co-Founder and Director of eCommera, told Retail Gazette that it is all part of creating a relationship with its customer.
He believes this shows a true understanding of consumer needs, adding: “A retail store is a story.
“A story that can be told, that makes it different to every other on the market whether that story be about the lifestyle or is about the history, or is it about the technology?
“Retailers fundamentally tell stories and these will appeal to different types of people.”
Luxury designer Mulberry is also firmly focused on innovation, gaining recognition for making noise in the music world with the introduction of its Mix Tape Tour, which recently had the band Kasabian singing a cover version of the musical Bugsy Malone’s ‘We Could Have Been Anything’ at the Coachella festival. A recent collaboration line of handbags with Lana Del Rey, popular for her dark crooning pop songs, has further cemented the company’s musical ties.
With an awareness of the emotional impact music can have on its customers, the designer brand has sought to overhaul the music used in store by enlisting the company Music Concierge, who create bespoke playlists for luxury hotels and brands such as Dunhill and Claridge’s.
Trying to move away from the temptation of providing the latest tracks from the charts, Rob Wood, Creative Director and Founder of the service, explained that Mulberry approached his team, asking them to specifically target its wide range of shoppers, from the teenage daughter to her mother, in an attempt to appeal to a broad audience.
Wood told Retail Gazette: “The music has to be on brand and relevant to both those types of age ranges which is quite tricky, while at the same time reflecting the Mulberry brand values in terms of their British heritage and in terms of being a cutting edge fashion-forward brand.
“They wanted to create lots of little bursts of customer delights. People were surprised and inspired by their music rather than hearing what you would hear in any other retail environment. We have created something that achieves all of those objectives and that is something that customers and staff gave a lot of positive feedback on.”
Wood believes that it is highly important for retailers in fashion to have eye-catching window displays as it is such a visual-orientated industry; however, the sounds can trigger reactions conducive to a hostile shopping environment.
“Fast music tends to increase your heartbeat and the way you move and the speed you move at. If you are playing loud up-tempo music in the stores, they are likely to be moving quicker through the store rather than if you slow the music down so the shopper might browse for longer.”
In-store and online are slowing becoming more amalgamated, with John Lewis’s virtual dressing room trialled for six weeks at the end of April giving its visitors the opportunity to stand in front of a virtual mirror while the technology matches their dimensions to clothes in store.
Earlier this week, fashion retail group Aurora teamed up with online payment company PayPal to allow customers to pay for transactions in - store through the use of their mobile phone, further blurring the line between retail and digital innovation, while fashion retailer Reiss announced today the roll out of iPads in its stores to enable customers to view its stock selection while out shopping on the high street.
While some may fear such technological advancements will lead to depersonalisation, Ross feels that developments will force retailers to provide a more service-driven environment.
“Our shopping habits are changing as we browse both online and offline,” he said. “Increasingly, we are going to walk into stores, scan barcodes and create virtual wish lists, bringing better services to the high street.”
Judging by the ever-evolving face of the UK high street, it looks increasingly like the next generation of retail experience will deliver a state-of-the-art technological service.