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The Year That Everything Changed In Retail - The Transformative Year

6th Oct 2016
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This is a pivotal year in retail, when as an industry we finally got to grips with one simple idea: that the Internet is no longer remarkable.

In fact, it is like when electricity first came in: it sent shockwaves into homes and businesses at first, then became wholly adopted by those keen to innovate. After that, it faded in the wake of newer innovations, becoming a convenience factor that people simply expected. Today, ecommerce is retail’s electricity: an innovation of convenience, a hygiene factor for brands and, at best, something that helps customers get stuff faster.

Personalisation (that other big differentiator made possible by the Internet) will also become mainstream as more and more brands develop smarter ways to gather and crunch data. In tomorrow’s retail world, the innovative customisation we’re seeing today will become the norm. Super-relevant offers targeted at individuals, virtual reality as standard, and hyper-mobile experiences will be an expected part of your brand’s offer.

The emotional edge

So how do you make your retail experience stand out?

An emotional edge is where store-based experiences can shine. But only if they give us a reason to shop in an era where increasingly we don’t need to buy anything to enjoy going shopping.

There’s now no doubt that the future of retail belongs to physical, human interaction in all its emotional, sensorial glory. Augmented yes, with technology that can deliver a personalised, seamless and engaging experience, but more than ever going shopping equals real places with real people, where we can slow down, meet friends, socialise and have fun. This is how you can be distinctive and build loyalty; enticing people back again and again to your store.

Today, emotion is more powerful than data.

Having great people to emotionally engage with your customers through an innovative, physical experience will build loyalty and boost market share.

A re-imagined store is a beautiful thing

The beauty of the physical store is that it’s uniquely placed to deliver this emotional edge for your brand and create more meaningful connections between you and your customers as a result. Combined with technology, the store has unique advantages over less visceral channels. With 80% of shopping still passing through physical stores at some point during the journey to transaction, brands must play to these strengths.

Amazon has convenience cornered – its latest launches, Amazon Dash and its grocery service. But as other brands with huge store residences easily catch up in the convenience shopping stakes, it will be interesting to see if Amazon can match the emotional connection with customers while it lacks physical presence dominance.

IKEA is on a mission to get closer to its customers, using its physical channel in innovative ways to do it. Recognising that big box retailing plays a lesser role in how consumers want to shop these days, the retailer is testing smaller ‘order and collect’ stores in high street locations such as the one recently opened in Westfield Stratford.

The move is an interesting one as the new stores offer more than a venue for click and collect, although they do aim to make shopping for IKEA products more seamless with drive through collection points.  With kitchen sets and easier access to IKEA’s furniture range and design teams, the experience is geared towards inspiring and helping customers plan more complex purchases such as buying an entire kitchen. At the same time IKEA’s Dining Club experience in Shoreditch builds the brand’s emotional credentials. Taking the concept of a pop-up to an entirely new height are its pop-up IKEA kitchens, complete with chef and maître de, where customers can use the space (free of charge) to host their own dinner parties for up to 20 people.

Both concepts strike a more customer-friendly pose for IKEA; a move that brings the brand closer to people - both physically and emotionally.

‘Zero-Based Thinking’

Another big trend this year is the overwhelming need to think differently about challenges the modern consumer presents us with.

Dyson’s new store on Oxford Street, London is a great example of what happens when a brand takes this approach. The store’s focus is to give visitors the chance to experience Dyson products first hand and explore the technology that sets Dyson apart from others on the market. Dyson gives people a valid reason to visit its store, rewarding them with a supremely physical experience that other digital channels just can’t replicate and leaving them with a better understanding of why they should choose Dyson.

2017: Bring it on.

So will you remember 2016 as a transformative year?

Retail’s future depends upon human interaction, the physicality of emotion linked with technology, and an innovative in-store experience that makes it all possible.

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