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The Retailer's Guide to Surviving 2018 (Bear Grylls not included)

Following a fruitful winter, numbers should be up for retailers. However, some of the big names have struggled to match year-on-year figures again. Retailer heroes, Debenhams and Next have both reported offline sales figures continuing to drop, even with big TV campaigns and sales shouts. Could this be the death of retail as we know it?

The trouble is, it’s no longer enough to have a retail space filled with stuff you can buy – shoppers expect more from their retail experience. Stores need to do more to survive.

Convenience is key

Ultimately, customers are looking for things that make their shopping experiences either better or easier. Thanks to the King of Convenience, Amazon, we’re used to having every product known to man at our fingertips, and getting whatever we want instantly. It’s a shopping trend that is influencing every single touchpoint, including retail, and as the age-old debate between clicks-versus-bricks continues, retailers are having to think of new ways to entice customers through their doors.

Convenience in store means getting products and product information to people in the quickest and easiest way possible. Mindshare’s Future of Retail research found that 83% of respondents think stores are important as they allow people to see, touch and feel a product. The retail experience is an incredible part of the decision-making process, and whilst research and transactions take place online, customers still want to experience their product before purchase.

Nike Town has fully embraced this new customer behaviour, offering dynamic ways to interact with their product range – like trial zones for shoppers to ‘play’ on synthetic turf or basketball halls – so that people can see the benefit of what’s in front of them right away. A big hit was the Nike+ Running Trial Zone that transforms the treadmill into a 90-second run in Central Park or the West Side Highway via a digital screen, fuelled by real-time performance feedback.

Ultimately, putting things in people’s hands, and making it easy for them to choose that thing!

“Tech, tech, tech.”

“It’s all about tech.” “If you don’t use tech, then you’ll be left behind – you’ll be the dinosaur.” These are all things we’ve heard before. And they’re true. A store that leverages technology effectively can close the loop between digital and physical, exceeding shopper expectations and stopping themselves from becoming ‘extinct’.

Kate Spade blurred the boundaries between on and offline with its ‘Joy Walks’ campaign at last year’s Paris Fashion Week. The luxury fashion brand launched an AR mobile app to generate buzz and, more importantly, footfall, around the opening of its first bricks-and-mortar store in Paris. The app guided users through the French city via ‘Joy Walks,’ where they saw real Parisian locations overlaid with virtual surprises, including flamingos in the Seine River, iconic yellow cabs in the street and a rainbow over the Eiffel Tower.

Charlotte Tilbury is also a powerful case study for best in class technology in retail. An AR-powered digital mirror allows customers to virtually ‘try-on’ numerous make-up looks before they buy.

Building connected experiences in retail is part of our challenge as a creative agency, and we strive to always champion simple tech ideas that seamlessly fit into, and enhance, a brand’s story.

Experiences worth sharing

‘45 people have watched your story’…of you out shopping. Nowadays, everyone loves to talk, and social currency comes from giving people more than just a shopping experience. Apple and Burberry have been leading the pack when it comes to creating experience-focused retail for many years. But other retailers are starting to catch up, transforming themselves into destinations in their own right to help stem the trend of customer spend diverting from "owning stuff" into leisure activities and experiences.
For example, Ferrero Rocher’s recent multi-sensory experience, ‘Ferrero Rocher: Behind the Layers’, in Westfield White City, allowed shoppers to delve into a 5-course tasting menu based on the praline’s five layers, whilst beautiful digital projections played around them. The whole experience was beautifully and entirely Instagrammable!

To summarise, the importance of social currency and good old word-of-mouth should never be underestimated, and retailers have a job to do to make sure that we are engaged and walking through the doors. And while it’s clear that retail is having to adapt and evolve in order to keep up with societal and lifestyle shifts, survival is certainly within reach for all brands. At the very least, putting the shopper at the heart of the retail space will refocus a brand’s purpose. When the people speak, we must listen!

Written by Helen Cliffe
Account Manager