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If there’s one thing the past year has taught the retail industry, it’s that the old way wasn’t really working.

Even prior to the pandemic, the 100+ year old department store model was in the winter of its days, the role of car dealerships was in question, the appetite for 10 year flagship leases was diminishing and on the flipside of the same coin, online stores were becoming more and more important as part of the buying journey.

That might all sound a bit doom and gloom, but from our perspective, change creates opportunity.

And 2020 hasn’t just prized open the door to a new breed of retail, it’s kicked it down entirely.

With brands and retailers reopening their doors across the globe, we thought it a good time to look at the future of the store and what kind of role it will play post-pandemic.

“Retail might be returning, but we shouldn’t expect the same cast or stage from when we last saw it.” – Andrew Busby, Retail Expert & Founder of Retail Reflections

When we spoke to retail expert Andrew Busby recently, he said the sector was set for serious change.

“The increasingly pervasive nature of the direct-to-consumer model will cause retail to take a long hard look at itself. It will need to redefine the added value it brings more than ever before.”

It’s hard to argue that Andrew’s wrong: retail has been forced to adapt – and faster than ever before too.

But has it brought with it the death of the store as some doom and gloom clickbaiters will have you think?

Of course not.

The fact that Topshop and Topman – once firm favourites and strong brands in their own right – were bought by e-tail powerhouse ASOS late last year was a changing of the guard in many senses.

It’s a sign that if you don’t evolve, you face extinction (or acquisition).

As consumer demands changed over the years, Topshop and Topman did not.

As retail guru Mary Portas told The Guardian, some of the brands leaving the UK high street were simply “not good enough for what we need now…I think we are going to see less but better.”

 

So why would consumers shop in-store when they have the convenience of Amazon at the tap of a button?

Well first of all, it’s engrained in all of us to seek out other humans and  to come together in social settings.

That’s why we’re all counting down the days to the one way road to freedom to be reunited with one another (55 days till beer everywhere, with everyone), and why video call fatigue is a very real thing.

One way road to freedom

Countdown clocks like the above have swept the internet over the past few months.

 

Whether you’re more of an introvert or an extrovert, we’re all social creatures through and through.

This combined with our desire to express who we are in public places through the clothes we wear and seek out things that bring us happiness, and what you have is a very convincing case for the future of the store.

What the store does need to do though is prove its worth more than ever before.

 

So what does the store of the future look?

We have very quickly become virtual consumers, spending more and more of our lives online, socialising, shopping, gaming, working, dating.

Gaming and social media have naturally grown even bigger as channels for brands of all shapes and sizes. There are now 2.7 billion gamers across the globe and more than half of the entire world spend an average of 2 hours 25 minutes on social media a day.

But in order to thrive, physical stores will be key – and insuring that they interlink with all your channels, young and old, will be core to inspiring consumers in the physical world.

The store now needs to be fuelled by your wider digital ecosystem to ensure that a dialogue starts long before a customer goes in-store and continues long after they leave.

As retail reopens its doors, it does so with a digital smorgasbord of new opportunities at its fingertips to pull shoppers back in-store; from reward-led experiences that can be unlocked through social engagement, to gamified product-trial, like our new PUMA digital football experience.

By bringing digital game-play and social media into real-world shopping experiences, brands can harness the power of data and join the dots between the online shopping experience and in-store journey. This allows them to fail fast, learn fast and respond to customers in agile, highly-personalised ways.

Burberry social retail
Burberry’s social retail concept incentivises customer reward in-store by building social currency on WeChat

 

How we can help

The store is far from dead. It’s actually become a more vital component than ever in the customer-relationship story.

The stores of the future will engage with brands on a deep, emotional level, while also connecting directly into their digital lives.

We’ve worked with dozens of brands across the globe to reimagine their retail presence and to bring their experiences into the future.

We can also help you to translate your flagship experiences into smaller formats and take that same experience into the digital landscape, with digital content and online activations.

Interested in how we can help you to adapt your stores for the future? Or perhaps still figuring out how your stores should play a part in your omni-channel journey? Click here to book an intro call with us today.

 

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