Redefining the retail experience

For years we have heard stories of the apparent decline of the high street, with the likes of Comet, Maplin and Dixons dropping out of the town centre mix. Meanwhile, online giants like Amazon have proved disrupters in the way we search, experience and purchase goods – questioning whether a bricks-and-mortar presence is in fact needed at all.

If anything rings true, it is that shopping behaviours and the way consumers interact with brands has changed drastically. Consumers want to make informed purchasing decisions, whether their driver is price, experience or brand awareness. What this means, is retailers face greater challenges in driving sales and staying on top of their game.

Taking electrical retailing as an example, the transformation of the market brought about by the rise of smart products has required retailers to look very closely at the way they engage with consumers – bringing the value of experience retailing to the fore, while also balancing the price value that online retailing offers. Consumers want the best price, but when selecting new technology products in particular, they want to test, play and explore the products before making their decision.

For retailers, smart technology offers an opportunity to bring an entirely new experience to a generation of consumers that clearly want more from the high street. By taking the reins and using the smart revolution to their advantage, retailers can create immersive shopping experiences capable of truly connecting with consumers and driving sales. And, many retailers are already heading in this direction, embracing dynamic customer experiences inside and outside of the store.

Last year’s Black Friday saw Amazon open a guerrilla store on Oxford Street to showcase some of its bestsellers ‘in-situ’, while global tech retailer Bosch has brought a real life smart home and garden experience direct to consumers through its Smart Living tour.

For electrical retailers looking to capitalise on the experience phenomenon there are a number of ways to effectively engage consumers. When it comes to smart products, display and presentation is key. Positioning products as part of the entire smart solution – in context – can really help to sell the benefits to consumers. This might be a specially designed section of the store, or an experiential space in a town centre that mirrors the home setting.

Looking beyond the shop floor offers retailers a chance to disrupt the traditional consumer journey. Whether it is a pop-up shop in a supermarket car park, a temporary extension of the store or a presence at a large-scale festival, retailers can capture consumer interest at the most opportune moments.

Key to this approach is giving consumers the chance to get hands-on with products. Research has shown the effect of hands-on learning on memory and understanding – in retail terms it invites a level of consumer interaction and understanding that can’t be achieved by simply boxing up items on a store shelf.  

Once retailers have nailed down an experiential approach to smart products, there is great value to be had from partnering with brands on effective training. Brands know their products inside out and can support with training that actually turns sales staff into brand ambassadors, capable of bringing products to life.

For online-only retailers looking to engage consumers in smart technology, it calls for flexibility. Increasingly we are seeing online retailers invest in a temporary physical presence to drive people to products online – while clothing retailers like Pretty Little Thing have taken this approach appearing at UK festivals, the benefits for smart product retailers has to be even greater.

At the heart of this approach is adding value to the consumer journey through increased understanding. Retailers have to be able to adapt to the changing market and evolve their consumer engagement strategy accordingly. If the declining high street tells us anything it is that competition is fierce, and those willing to seize the opportunity presented by smart technology could well fare better.

Keith Austin, CEO of Event Marketing Solutions EMS is the number one provider of global roadshow campaigns, working in 49 countries with offices in the UK, Middle East and US.

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