Embracing change is important in any industry and retail is no exception. Mass adoption of new technologies has had a dramatic influence on the way consumers shop and has created new platforms for both browsing and purchasing. While online and mobile shopping is increasingly important for time-poor consumers, the significance of the in-store customer experience can’t be swept aside. It is now, in fact, more important than ever before.
Stores must adapt and evolve to provide the experience that consumers want. A number of high street stores have fallen on hard times in recent years as they haven’t embraced technology and evolved with the consumer. The rise and ease of new technology shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the traditional retail space. It is an opportunity for stores to interact with consumers and provide an enjoyable experience to reflect and showcase their brand, giving people a reason to leave the comfort of online shopping.
Creating a luxury shopping experience:
Brands must provide customers a reason to come in-store. They crave a beneficial experience that evokes the senses and alleviates them from their busy lifestyles. It’s the emotion that occurs in-store when in contact with the product that really drives purchases. With consumers looking for a great experience from start to finish in-store, a tailored and customised service is integral to this. In order to attract customers to visit a physical store and spend money, they require a professional and efficient service. In-store technology can aid the speed of service and provide an enjoyable experience. Although online and mobile platforms provide round-the-clock opportunities for purchasing, when customers shop in-store they receive quality one-on-one time with sales people who understand and can showcase the product.
Although important for all areas of retail, the ability to try before you buy in the luxury sector is particularly key. If you’re spending significant amounts of money on a product, you can’t just rely on what you see online. The internet is great for product research, but the physical in-store retail experience is crucial to sealing the deal. It’s no longer a ‘clicks-versus-bricks’ debate. The successful retailers know that it’s not a one or the other situation – both are necessary.
The integration of digital:
Technology is significantly impacting the industry with 80 per cent of retail CEOs ranking ‘technological advances’ as one of the global trends that will transform their businesses in the next five years, according to PwC. With the surge of digital adoption, technology is a positive change for retail and is reviving the in-store experience. The ability to interact with innovative designs and products is allowing brands to show-off the best of their goods.
A hands-on experience in-store is important for customer interaction. If you’re investing in a top quality item, getting a feel for the product is key. Technology enables retailers to showcase their products and immerse consumers with the brand. The brands that are using technology to create opportunities and provide the optimum experience for customers, are evolving with the consumer. Burberry, for example, opened their London flagship store in Regent Street in 2012, raising the bar for what an in-store experience should look and feel like. By taking concepts from their website and applying them to the store, Burberry has created a masterpiece where ‘the digital world meets the physical’, reflecting the brand’s high-end reputation. Evoking a range of senses with the use of touch screen and large digital displays, Burberry is giving its customers a reason to go in-store and get the immersive experience that you wouldn’t receive online.
The rise of e-commerce can’t be dismissed but the in-store experience is now more important than ever. It isn’t a choice between the two but instead an integrated experience that brands must deliver. Online retailers such as Amazon understand this and have recently demonstrated the importance of offering both an online and in-store experience. Just like traditional bricks-and-mortar stores have had to innovate to keep their customers happy, online stores have a similar challenge. Amazon recently announced its plans to launch the first bricks-and-mortar outlet in its 20-year history to provide the type of face-to-face experience found at traditional retailers. Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, acknowledges the importance of physical retail to get closer to customers but equally he wants Amazon to implement it in a ‘truly differentiated’ way.
The brands that embrace the changing consumer and offer an in-store experience that goes above and beyond the norm, will be successful and move the retail industry forward. Yes, it’s important to focus on your online and mobile platforms, but don’t leave behind the physical store. The store is now more important than ever – it’s where products really show off their magic, by providing a memorable retail experience through expert consultants who personalise each customer’s journey. Ultimately to succeed however, stores need to deliver something different and continue to surprise consumers to achieve success and secure repeat visits.
Andrew Macer, Head of Sales UK and Ireland at Bang & Olufsen