For The Drum’s Deep Dive into The New Customer Experience Economy, industry experts give their view on the brands that have mastered the tricky blend of digital and physical retail.
Covid-19 irrevocably changed consumer shopping habits. Some research suggests that the shift to e-commerce was fast-tracked by decades as lockdown forced people online. According to McKinsey, 10 years of e-commerce adoption was compressed into three months. You can read about the impact enforced isolation and social distancing had on retail here.
But with a nation increasingly comfortable shopping on- and offline, and demanding that the experience across both is seamless, retail bosses realize there’s no going back. Even those historically against going digital have accepted the need for a online presence to complement the physical store. After years of resistance, Primark, for example, is investing heavily in its website with a long-awaited real-time stock checker.
“Consumers have become more intentional with the use of their time. The conscious decision to venture out to a physical shop isn’t driven by convenience,” says Alessandro Camaioni, strategy director UK at experiential advertising agency Momentum Worldwide.
“Physical retail is then seen as complementary to its digital counterpart and expected to offer more (and more intense) experiences, which online is still vastly lacking. Playfulness, escapism, serendipity and immersiveness are just some of the areas brands and retailers can deliver on in their physical spaces to win shoppers back.”
We asked Momentum’s Camaioni and Tom Moore, head of retail at VLMY&R Commerce, to give us their take on some of the best retailers nailing the perfect blend of physical and digital retail.
Moore: Burberry is leading the way in China with its first social retail store. A truly physical and digitally-immersive store, shoppers are encouraged to engage in a custom program inside WeChat to engage with product, navigate the shop and upload their own content to earn virtual currency.
This level of gamification and integration of digital interactivity makes the shopping experience much more alluring than simply browsing a selection of coats. Shoppers get the double dopamine hit of buying new things and social media shares.
Camaioni: With event retail, shops become one touchpoint of an integrated ecosystem. If people can effectively shop anywhere, anytime, a store’s role is less about ‘product-in-hand’ and more about engaging people with valuable sensory, emotional and ultimately memorable propositions.
Selfridges continues to be a brilliant example of a retailer capable of adapting to the exponential age we live in. Understanding the ongoing mood-shift to mindfulness and wellbeing, it has redefined the notion of retail therapy, and started to offer therapeutic experiences ranging from sex therapy sessions to confidence coaching. [This is] a clear example of event retail in action.
Moore: Benetton has opened a sustainable concept store in Florence, which features design features upcycled and environmentally-friendly materials, as well as state-of-the-art, energy-saving technologies. Collections featured are sustainable, with organic, recycled or BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) cotton, regenerated nylon and natural fibres. A commitment to bringing purpose to the fore, both in operations and product.
Moore: Retailers are leveraging the strength of multiple brands to give shoppers more reasons to make trips, and drive up footfall and growth. Think of brand collaborations such as Starbucks and Sainsbury’s, merging retail and food service.
Target in the US is doubling down on in-store shops, bringing the likes of Disney, Apple and Ulta Beauty and further partnerships with Levi’s and Lego to the fore. This strategy is driving footfall with more reasons to be in store. From a consumer perspective it offers up the benefit of multiple branded shopping experiences without the need for multiple trips.
For more on The New Customer Experience Economy, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive.