Despite the massive growth in online shopping and decline in physical retail (with stores closures and a definitive shift towards investing in and building online platforms), the “brick-and-mortar” store remains a vital component of retail.
eCommerce stores are rapidly growing and retail giants such as Alibaba and Amazon are excelling; Alibaba made $8.6 billion in online sales within the first hour of Singles Day whilst Amazon was the number one seller of apparel in the US in 2017. However, physical stores still generate sales: 94% of retail sales in the US, representing $3.9 trillion in revenue. So what’s changing? The line between in-store and online shopping is blurring.
As we’ve spoken about before, digital channels compliment physical stores rather than compete with them. Technology makes this relationship easier and personalisation can help drive sales in-store as well as online. Therefore, as the world becomes more and more virtual, people increasingly crave physical experiences.
“Media is becoming the store while the store is becoming the media”
By trying to standout in a saturated retail environment, stores are turning into high tech, experience driven spaces. As traditional retail is receding, stores are embracing communal experiences which offer more than just a product; it’s all about experience, hospitality, entertainment and community – linking the online and offline worlds.
Store of The Future
Farfetch unveiled a beta version of its ‘Store of the Future’ – their ‘operating system’ for physical retail.
Farfetch founder José Neves spoke about his vision, revealing that Farfetch’s Store of the Future will be a one of a kind retail solution that “links the online and offline worlds, using data to enhance the retail experience”.
One of the most important things about the store revolution is the ability to stay in tune with the ever changing lifestyle needs of a customer. Traditional elements such as the changing rooms and the clothing rails are being upgraded: from fitting rooms equipped with photo booths to clothing rails fitted with RFID technology to log which products are the “most viewed” and taken in the changing room. The emphasis is on the creation and collection of data so that the customer experience can continue to be refined and developed according to micro-interactions in stores.
Bringing eCommerce into the Store
Zara have opened a new store which features technology-enhanced design elements aimed at elevating the customer experience.
A new Zara pop-up store has opened in Westfield to continue to garner traffic and sales whilst the flagship is being refurbished. However, it’s more than just a filler – it’s a curated selection of women’s and men’s clothing available to try on in-store and get delivered to your home after you’ve bought it online through the in-store iPads and devices. Although there are no traditional tills or counters, there will still be a Zara team equipped with mobile devices to assist customers with orders and develop a more digital customer experience. They’ve also added in mirrors embedded with screens to offer product recommendations and help customers with styling.
The chairman and chief executive officer of Inditex, Pablo Isla, said the opening marked “another milestone in our strategy of integrating stores with the online world, which defines our identity as a business.”
Physical retail is no longer simply a channel for buying – they will become a physical representation of the brand ethos where we can learn, be inspired and even help create and develop products.
The focus will move away from the product itself and brands will be progressing into selling customer experiences instead.