Earlier this month we attended the virtual launch party of ‘Resurrecting Retail’, the latest book from international key-note speaker and author, Doug Stephens. Whilst in essence this was a promotional exercise to sell his book (and his consultant services), this was a commendable event, not least because it is currently freely available on YouTube!
Doug talked with an array of guests - from academics to retail innovators, through to creative agencies – and explored what the future of retail might look like beyond the pandemic, especially after the rapid growth of online retail.
It’s worth watching if you’re still in doubt about what ‘new retail’ really means. Through wide-ranging case studies from both online and bricks and mortar retailers, you’ll find examples of innovative thinking and strategies that are blurring the lines between our physical and digital worlds to enrich the retail experience for consumers.
Virtual versus reality
After months of lockdown consumers have learnt that it’s convenient to buy most of the things they need online. Of course, numerous retail brands have responded with new and exciting ‘virtual’ online experiences to engage their customers while stores were closed. So why would consumers leave the safety and comfort of their homes to go back to shopping in stores?
Thankfully, as non-essential retailers reopened in England this April, the footfall figures were outstanding, taking many analysts by surprise. This reassuring evidence shows that the desire is definitely still there to return to bricks and mortar stores and destinations. And importantly, our own clients tell us that people are not just browsing, they are buying.
So this is a fabulous restart for physical stores, and one that can only get stronger, once the hospitality industry is allowed to reopen properly, giving consumers even more of a reason to be out and about again.
However, despite this promising start to store re-openings, bricks and mortar retailers will need to be careful as they rebuild footfall. Analysts worry that the pent-up demand from increased household savings may not last once the furlough scheme ends. So stores are going to need to work hard to sustain footfall by ensuring they give their customers something that they can’t get online from the convenience of their sofas.
The recent positive footfall figures confirm what many of us already know - that convenience is not always a priority for shoppers. Physical stores are still popular and relevant because, done well, they offer consumers the best and most immersive engagement with a brand. So retailers must continue to strive to make their instore experiences something exceptional and engaging.
The need for exceptional retail stores
Last summer we wrote about the arrival of the ‘experience economy’ and the need for exceptional stores and exceptional brand experiences. Nearly a year on, and this need has become even greater.
Indeed, as one of the ‘Resurrecting Retail’ guests summed up, her best piece of advice to retailers today is to “take brand experience seriously”.
We couldn’t agree more! Here’s our top tips to help you take your brand experience seriously:
Bring clarity to your purpose, relevance and place in your sector.
Put customers at the heart of all the decisions you take.
Create authentic brand stories to build deeper relationships with customers.
Use research insights to design experiences around what your customers want.
Combine technology and people to make experiences feel personal.
Commit to keeping your brand experience fresh, relevant and alive every day.