So what exactly can physical stores learn from online retail? There is no doubt that the internet has fundamentally affected the role of stores within the retail mix. McKinsey reveals that in 2012 digital media has influenced 50% of UK in-store purchases – and this could rise to 80% by 2015. To adapt, stores must become multichannel experiential and social hubs.
Continued merging of online and physical world
When creating strategic platforms or concept designs we brainstorm how others might approach them. How would Facebook design a charity shop? How would PayPal run a retail bank? And online stores such as ASOS, Ocado, Amazon and Shoesofprey.com succeed not just because of pricing and convenience, but also because of innovation and relevance.
A big challenge is space – especially for smaller stores. These need to become editors. What we crave are curators, like GQ magazine or Wallpaper* City Guides, who make choices easier. A glance at Notonthehighstreet.com or MrPorter.com shows personalised ideas, cross-merchandising, ranges, assistance and relevant content links. In-store pop-up spaces can answer this, showcasing designers, experts, events, promotions and more.
Websites like Medwinds.com or Howies.co.uk tell compelling product stories. Who designed it? Where was it made? What can you do with it? Accompanied by aspirational images and customer comments, it’s more inspiring than simply products on shelves – so we should embrace storytelling too, perhaps through augmented reality. Our Citroen DS3 project at Westfield taught us that customer interaction via personal devices creates rich dialogue, without massive hardware costs.
The internet has given shoppers the ability to learn, browse and purchase 24/7. Storefronts should now do this, with extended interactivity through access to rich content, such as touchscreens and vending machines.
Speed and convenience are also vital. The checkout queue is often frustrating, so a more fluid process, such as staff carrying mobile payment devices or the adoption of PayPal’s InStore app, can create quicker, more pleasant experiences.
Liking, Tweeting and sharing are vital, as shown by Italian sneaker brand Superga’s great instagram-based dialogue with customers on Facebook. Bringing this into a physical space, we should invest in WiFi and social media, and encourage leisure time in-store through competitions, interaction points and product-focused multimedia content.
For example, C&A clothes hangers in Brazil, with counters revealing how many Likes each garment has had, RNKD’s US customers are rewarded for uploading photos of items in their closet, and Vancl customers can set up personal stores, upload photos of themselves wearing Vancl products and earn 10% of sales from their pages.
Technology, recession, the rise of supermarkets, the role of the high street, and how we interact with brands and retailers have created a melting pot of threats and opportunities. Those that embrace the above principles will be well placed to tackle them.
Steve Pearce is client services director at Green Room