According to a recent survey by eMarketer, 87% of everything bought in the UK is purchased in-store. Although some commentators blame the rise of e-commerce on the decline of the high street, it seems that there are other factors in play when it comes to the UK’s varying retail fortunes. Studies suggest that people still place value in personal interaction and retailers should be playing to the strengths of retail technology and using it to enrich the physical retail experience – rather than as a substitute. By providing opportunities for brand storytelling and enhancing customer experience, stores can help consumers to connect with their brand in a much more meaningful way.
Recent research has shown that even ‘generation Z’ who grew up with online shopping as ‘the norm’ crave real world experiences and physical retail interactions just as much as more experienced shoppers, with 67% suggesting that they would still rather shop in store than online.
As discussed many times on this blog, the future for retail is clearly rooted in successfully combining aspects of digital and physical retail into winning combinations, which play to the strengths of each channel.
Physical stores provide an immersive, sensory experience that simply cannot be emulated online. They should reward shoppers be maximising opportunities for them to do all of the things in store that they can’t do at home. Encouraging them to try products and interact with staff, in highly emotive and multi-sensorial environments, yet guided by meaning and relevance – both to the brand and the shopper.
By looking at both the mindset of a demographic and the personality of the brand, retail designers can create meaningful experiences, without gadgets or gimmicks, which engage all of the senses, in environments that contain layers of detail and sensory journeys, to evoke a deep emotional and intuitive understanding of the brand.
A good example of this kind of multi-dimensional brand storytelling is the Hunter boots store on Regent Street, which takes shoppers on a retail journey through agricultural architecture in a series of landscapes interspersed with digital and tactile experiences and playful visual illusions. In the fitting rooms, a sense of calm is created with recordings of birdsong – whilst in the main store, the digital soundscape is enhanced with weather forecasts played at regular intervals – a great example of how brand narratives can be created with the use of a digital soundscape which encapsulate the product.
If other retailers wish to continue into the future they can learn a lot from this example – they need to listen to customers, be responsive to new ideas and provide them to interact with their brand in deep and emotional ways, that they could never experience online.