How experiential CX is revitalising in-store retail

The rise of online retail, advances in technology and changes in consumer behaviour have transformed the retail landscape. While this has brought inevitable extinction for many brands, in typical Darwinian fashion, those able to adapt to their new environment continue to thrive. Liz Ward, Head of Sales and Marketing at Sigma explains how brands can reimagine retail spaces to offer the experiences today’s shoppers demand.  

Neither traditional retail spaces nor online stores are able to meet all the expectations of the modern, experience-led, tech-savvy consumer. While websites and shopping apps bring speed and convenience, customers cannot physically inspect products nor fully immerse themselves in a brand via a screen. What today’s consumers want is an omni-channel experience that seamlessly blends the online and physical store. The physical store, itself, meanwhile, needs to offer experiences far more attractive and of value than what is available online if it is to increase footfall. 

A new kind of high street

A key indicator that online shopping is not the death knell for the high street is the growing number of previously online-only brands that are now beginning to open physical stores. Amazon, of course, has spearheaded this move, bringing checkout-less retail that the major supermarkets are already trialling in order to stay competitive. Using a blend of weight measuring shelves, Bluetooth and advanced CCTV, customers simply pick items from the shelves and leave, with payments automatically processed through the store app. Although providing such an experience will require investment for the hi-tech fit-out, checkout-less stores remove the biggest pain point for consumers, queuing, while also cutting down the number of staff needed in-store.     

Amazon, of course, does not have a monopoly on such technology, so checkout-less experiences cannot be the only reason it has moved into the high street. Indeed, it is not alone; the growing number of online brands opening physical stores include, Misguided, Netflix, TikTok and So, what is the attraction of the high street?

A clue comes from looking at the online retailer Bonobos which has opened physical stores where customers can’t actually buy any of its products. Essentially, these are try-on stores, offering customers the chance to experience online-only clothing before ordering. Customers can buy through an app when in-store, or later, and have the products delivered. And with stock not disappearing off the shelves, customers are always assured that the items they want to try on will be there in the store. 

Bonobos and Amazon are typical examples of the kind of experiential retail that is transforming the high street. It is not, however, just former online-only retailers that are delivering such experiences. Many existing high street brands are also offering omni-channel and experiential shopping. One current trend is to develop ‘retailtainment’ stores. There are various examples of this within the UK, including the Adidas mega-store where changing room interfaces enable customers to ask for clothing in different colours and sizes, and the House of Vans store which puts on movies and live music and has an onsite skating park. Dr. Martens in Camden, meanwhile, lets customers experience virtual reality, GIF booths and shoe customisation. 

There are countless other examples of where stores are repurposing their spaces to offer enhanced customer experiences, whether that’s to offer click and collect, open cafés, greet customers with 3D holograms, set up digital displays or install interactive merchandising displays for beauty products. 

The benefit of such transformations is that they offer customers rich and rewarding experiences not available online, but which compliment online offerings and expand the overall omni-channel experience. This makes them highly tempting places for customers to visit. However, they don’t merely increase footfall, the value of the immersive experiences on offer increase customer loyalty and brand advocacy. 

A word about sustainability

With a third of UK consumers choosing to use brands with sustainable practices , it’s clear that customers also want a greener shopping experience. For brands, it means that development should, where possible, result in more eco-friendly stores. At the same time, retailers can expand sustainability across their supply chain by working with a fit-out company that undertakes redevelopment in an environmentally friendly way. 

During a recent project, Sigma acted to minimise waste by collecting defunct store equipment that was being replaced during the project and then sorting it for reuse, refurbishment and recycling. This was part of a plan drawn up at the start of the project to ensure nothing would end up in landfill. As a result, all fixtures and fittings removed across an entire estate of 1,300 stores were subsequently recycled. In addition, 8,000 pallets used during the project were also recycled. As a result, over 2,000 trees were saved. 

To reduce the carbon footprint of this process, the old store equipment was taken away on the same vehicles that delivered the new kit. In this way, Sigma effectively managed to halve the number of journeys required.

Bringing transformation

Adapting to the changing landscape of the modern high street requires a bold approach. Brands need to reimagine their physical stores to meet consumer expectations and capitalise on the experiential opportunities which shoppers increasingly seek. Achieving such transformation will require major infrastructure changes and the deployment of the latest technologies. 

By partnering with a single, highly experienced fit-out and refurbishment provider, like Sigma, retailers will be able to navigate the complexities of transformation and better identify opportunities that bring value to their brand. At the same time, they can ensure that fit-out and redevelopment projects are delivered effectively, sustainably and at pace, from planning through to completion. Experienced project managers, meanwhile, can deliver cost efficiency, manage supplier lead times and the procurement of equipment, and make sure that reporting timelines and review periods are kept to.

To find out more, get in touch with Sigma today:

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