Future of Retail — Customer Engagement

issue 05

Further proof of the relevancy of physical retail is the number of online-only retailers choosing to open stores.

This will take the place of the style advisor in the shop,” says Hall. Such technological developments will

certainly enhance the store’s role. Further proof of the relevancy of physical retail is the number of online-only retailers choosing to open stores. Hall expects this trend to continue and cites Missguided as having enjoyed strong sales from its first store, which is leading it to open further outlets. “It created a 3D presence for its brand and

rumours are that the sales in-store were very good. This store is the physical embodiment of the ecommerce site with its quirky humour, shown through mannequin displays and video screens. It’s a fresh exciting design approach from Dalziel and Pow,” says Hall. However, he warns that care is needed

with in-store screens as it requires constant refreshing of the content, otherwise it becomes little more than “moving wallpaper”. His preference is to not rely on digital signage but to utilise shoppers’ mobile devices to deliver content to them when they are in-store. There is no doubt that the challenge for

retailers with stores is to maintain interest in them and ensure ongoing engagement with shoppers. “All of them face the issue of keeping things up to date and relevant but it’s impossible to compete against the speed of change available online, especially when you have lots of stores. I know from being at River Island and at Arcadia to make changes is expensive. One solution involves using IT and adopting an open architecture whereby new solutions and technologies can be added on easily,” he suggests. Another route to engaging with shoppers

in-store is through the introduction of food and beverage propositions. But this also comes with a warning from Hall who says his experience has shown that customers often walk around with their drinks, leave their cups lying around, and many will spend hours on their laptops while nursing a single cup of coffee. “Which complementary elements to

bring into stores is a tough one for retailers. Lululemon has yoga classes in its stores and Selfridges has opened a cocktail bar, while Burberry has always played with live acoustics. All these are designed for the customer to become part of the brand,” says Hall. The days of the huge stores full of racks

and rails of clothing are coming to an end, he suggests, adding that the high streets and the shopping malls that are not relevant will invariably close. For the fashion industry he believes the challenge to remain relevant to shoppers, and provide them with sufficient engagement whereby they keep on returning, is arguably tougher than in other categories of retail. This cannot be driven by price not when

you have the likes of Primark and H&M and the growth of clothing retail in supermarkets. We also have Amazon launching its own fashion and lingerie. This, he says, is partly down to the fact “everybody is chasing the same looks and even specific items, which is still largely driven by the ‘influencers’ who are easily accessible through social media”. He adds: “Kendall Jenner is rumoured

to be paid a fortune to hold a handbag for 10 minutes. And then it sells out in minutes. Information is now so open and accessible.“

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