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How to win in the new retail landscape

02 September 2019

Retail is not dead, boring retail is dead

As we all know, the retail industry has been through a period of immense flux. However, after a difficult few years it feels like it’s emerging from the dark and a new retail landscape is bringing innovative business models, retail formats and sophisticated technology to the fore. As famously said by Nike’s Vice President of Global Stores, Cathy Sparks “retail isn’t dead, boring retail is dead”.

However, with this new era of retail comes new considerations. Consumer lifestyles are vastly different today — more people live in cities, less own a property and even less own a car — and stores have had to adapt to suit this. On top of that, ‘experience’, once a simple noun, has now become integral to a brand’s retail strategy and the word ‘shop’ seems strikingly old-fashioned as stores strive to be more than just a shopping destination. However, creating a space that delivers on experience in a meaningful way, whilst avoiding tech gimmicks and ensuring every ounce of premium square footage enhances the overall retail experience and customer journey is, unsurprisingly, tricky.

New retail for new lifestyles

Our lifestyles have been gradually but significantly changing over the last decade or so. More people live in cities ( 92.2% of the UK population will live in a city by 2030, Stylus), and these city dwellers are more likely to delay starting a family, and therefore less likely to own a car (Londoners without children are around 15% less likely to own a car, TFL). For any brand, trying to keep up with shifting consumer lifestyles and needs is challenging.

Having an open-dialogue with your customer and making room for co-creation is key to ensuring you not only evolve alongside them but can pre-empt their needs. Ikea is a great example of this. The Swedish powerhouse has been successful at co-creating the future with its customers through its SPACE10 future living lab. This innovative space is all about bringing design experts and the public together to come up with innovative solutions to make everyday life that little bit better.

“Retail isn’t dead, boring retail is dead.”

Cathy Sparks

Vice President of Global Stores, Nike

Furthermore, in response to the changing lifestyles, it has opened several inner-city ‘planning stores’. These small-format stores make up for their size by encouraging customers to design their own living spaces using a combination of VR and physical displays. Ikea puts customers at its heart by designing an experience around their changing needs and utilising a piece of technology that really solves a customer problem. What Ikea demonstrates so well is its ability to create an experience with customers at its heart, where a new tech tool is truly integral to the customer journey and serves a meaningful purpose.

Building the ultimate brand home

As an increasing number of purchases happen online, a brand’s flagship physical space needs to be more than just a place to shop, it needs to be a home that centres on discovery, education and building links with customers.

Nike has recently changed its retail strategy, closing several smaller stores but investing heavily in bigger brand homes that are equal parts clubhouse and retail destination. Nike's House of Innovation flagship stores recently opened in New York and Shanghai, and are packed full of innovative, utilitarian technology. However, what makes this space truly stand out is the attention given to Nike’s customer club members. They have a whole floor dedicated to them and receive an exceptional level of service including access to unique products, experiences and customisation opportunities, access to one-on-one appointments to sporting experts and much more. Nike is successfully rivalling the new crop of streetwear brands with ‘stan’ followings, going the extra mile to nurture its fanbase by building them an awesome IRL space to call home.

For some brand homes the focus is skewed towards education. Vivo Lab, the concept store for Chinese smartphone brand Vivo is a great example. Centred on the in-phone camera technology, the store takes the art of photography as a central idea and encourages visitors to capture their own statement image in several different zones. These include Your Aura, an interactive wall that uses sensors to detect clothing colour, proximity and movement to mirror people as they arrive; Take Me Back, an interactive installation that uses innovative post-processing technology places the guest into historic backdrops using nine historic camera models; and Take Me There, a dome covered with diffused LEDs that demonstrate the drastic effects lighting conditions can have on photos.

Read about our work with Vivo here.

Key takeouts:

  • In order to stay relevant, make time to have an open, honest dialogue with your customers.

  • Technology for technology’s sake is a turn-off. Don’t jump on a bandwagon, invest in technology that will solve a pain point and truly enhance the customer journey. Read about the digital sales tool we created with Ford that reinvigorated their retail experience.

  • Build a home that inspires discovery and brings together your fans by immersing them in your brand world.