Total Retail Design
Given the huge economic uncertainty which is staring us in the face, it’s inevitable that retailers will be feeling the same pressure, anxiety and worry as their consumers. But these extraordinary times of change offer great opportunities that retailers can't ignore. Welcome to Total Retail.
But how can Total retail help retailers survive?
Be Bold to succeed
To truly succeed retailers will need to be flexible, intuitive and brave. They will move with the market and define change, not react to it. This is where Total Retail comes in.
Right now retailers have the possibility to become one the companies leading the way along this bumpy path; acting as a consumers personal comfort blanket. It's an opportunity to build trust and loyalty at a time when this has never been more important.
The road may not be smooth, but it is currently wide open. So they need to be seen as the companies pushing retail forward into this new territory.
The e-commerce fairytale
There was a time when retailers feared that ecommerce would kill the bricks and mortar retail space, but in recent years this proved unfounded, for consumers the physical shopping experience has remained central, and online is no substitute. Customers want to see, touch and fully engage with products, and this is just as important to consumers now as it has always been.
Retail's space is here is to stay, but with 4.8bn people worldwide expected to own a smartphone by the end of 2016 (according to Forrester) and 34% of people believing their phone is their primary online purchasing tool – so is online spending.
It’s important to understand that for consumers these aren't seen as separate entities, but simply as ways of shopping (regardless of whether how retailers run them). So it's crucial for retailers today to take a holistic, Total Retail approach to all platforms, and ignore outdated online/offline divisions.
If used correctly, online retail offers companies a tremendous opportunity to strengthen their physical retail spaces. With web‐influenced, webrooming purchases (where consumers research products online, but purchase in store) were expected to make up 38% of total retail sales in 2016.
Retailers are starting to realise that making the most of the consumer's behavior brings an opportunity to deliver a consistent brand message. This involves using a combination of online and offline experience that delivers a point of difference in the market.
Online retail may have the edge on price because customers can access market information at the touch of a button, but the store environment offers consumers a more emotive experience and most importantly the memory of great customer service.
Sales people and brand employee’s make the best brand ambassadors to highlight service as an integral part of the overall brand experience.
The Next Level
The next phase of Total Retail for online will see further exploration of personalisation through ‘machine learning’ and AI.
Houzz has developed ‘Visual Match’ a service that makes it easier for consumers to find and buy the types of products that inspire them from the thousands of photos on their platform. While eBay has added ‘eBay Collective’ to their service, which is an AI interior design service aimed at high-end shoppers. On it, shoppers can upload an image of the room they want to decorate; then the tool will search eBay to find the items that are the closest match to those in the image.
Instagram has given 20 retail brands the ability to offer shoppers a ‘tap to view’ on images, which then provides shoppers more information about purchasing products.
But physical retail spaces aren't being left behind, as the opportunity here is just as great. Recent retail spaces delivered by two of the biggest online powerhouses is testament to the Total Retail approach.
At Christmas, eBay launched a pop-up store in London that delivered a new kind of shopping experience that eBay customers can't get online. Customers were invited to sit in a private booth in which they listened to calming voices through headphones; they were then shown a series of 12 products and facial recognition software measured their facial expressions (a slight smile or frown, etc.). At the end of the experience, each customer is given a personalised report with suggested products which eBay predicts they will want to buy.
Digital technology also underpins the new ‘Amazon Go’ concept. Here customers shop products in a physical store, the difference being, here they can simply walk out of the store without going through a checkout process. Deep learning technology tracks the products and will charge the cost to customer’s online Amazon account.
Amazon has identified an opportunity to expand their brand presence (consistently) into a physical retail space. The fact that items taken from the store are charged to their existing online account means that the two retail platforms are not indistinguishable to the consumer.
And it’s not just the major players that are embracing the Total Retail design approach. Last year saw the opening of the cult nail studio WAH Nails in Soho. This nail boutique is like no other, designed to give the consumer a complete experience. Shoppers will experience a mixture of fashion and culture with digital playing an important part of the experience.
Within the ‘play and discover’ zone customers are encouraged to explore the virtual reality stations at which they can design and preview their own nail art creations, the designs can then be printed out and handed to the manicurist.
What does the future of retail hold….no-one knows for sure, it’s going to be exciting. It’s vital that retailers and brands stay connected to their consumers like never before. The tide has turned, the modern day consumer has an opinion, a voice and ever increasing expectations. Retailers will need to be revolutionary and innovative in the way they express their brand DNA. Success in 2017 will see Retailers embracing the Total Retail approach because this brings bigger, brighter and better opportunities to connect with (or lose) consumers.