E-commerce V Experience

The battle for the future of retail

Retail has transformed, and it’s all thanks to e-commerce. But as consumers search for convenient, personalised shopping experiences, staying competitive in retail requires more than just a responsive online presence or a mind-blowing instore interaction.

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Bridging the gap between on and off

Modern consumers demand convenience, and they expect the same speed and simplicity from the high street as they do from their smartphones. Leading retailers bridge the gap between on and offline by creating joined-up brand experiences – delivering the best of both worlds at every touchpoint.

Brands like Levi, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein are translating the instore experience into e-retail with a ‘true fit’ service – allowing customers to give feedback on the brands, sizes and fits they usually shop for. This gives online shoppers the same tailored advice they’d get instore, making the digital experience more personal, more targeted and easier than ever.

Making in-store memorable

Times may be changing, but the high street isn’t dead. Physical stores will always create experiences impossible to replicate online, and successful retailers are capitalising on this opportunity – just look at how Apple’s memorable store experiences use face-to-face interaction and product exclusives to drive brand awareness.

Technology also plays a key role in bringing the convenience of online into the physical store – with tablets and touchscreens heightening flexibility and clarity for shoppers. IKEA unifies online and offline experiences with tech – using LCD screens to illustrate larger product features, and touchscreens for customisation, click and collect, and assembly booking.

Staying on the high street, Lush’s new tablet till system offers a range of payment options and faster transactions, creating more space for product displays and streamlining the instore purchase process.

Taking the online experience further

As e-commerce grows in popularity, more and more retailer transactions come through social media – but it’s an area of potential many fail to tap into. One post a day isn’t enough anymore: the most innovative brands are extending their reach, capitalising on the appeal of global influencers, and increasing their audience and relevance through Instagram and Snapchat.

Today, social isn’t just a series of channels – it’s the foundation of modern brands. Creating impact requires seamless integration of every physical and digital channel – and that means an experience with a distinctive tone of voice, regular updates and genuine influence on the real world.

Abloh Virgil’s first show for Louis Vuitton was the perfect example of this, creating a surge of social media activity by offering catwalk items direct to customers, and resulting in shoppers posting garments straight to their feeds.

Lifestyle blogger, Emily Hunt, (also known as The London Blogger) champions the power of consumer involvement in the growth of fashion brands. “Brands opening up their shows to influencers gives that behind the scenes, real view of the events. If a designer can captivate the influencers they invite and they spread this to their communities, the people in front of phone screens can join that brand’s community.”

A seamless future

Developing technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence and voice recognition are helping brands personalise experiences, providing a wealth of consumer data to increase responsiveness and memorability.

Timothy Holloway, Creative Director at Graff Diamonds, predicts an increase in brands using data and insight for personalisation. “Brands will continue to prioritise user experience, designing every single consumer-brand interaction with the user’s needs in mind both on and offline. We will see brands using their customers’ data more effectively to create even more personalised experiences from site to store.”

The battle for the future of retail is set to continue, with the online and physical experience both crucial to keeping consumers engaged, brands relevant, and ultimately, revenues high. The greatest potential lies in creating joined up experiences, and the brands that take their customers on seamless journeys through digital and instore worlds will be the real winners.

Our survey says

To get a more rounded, real-life picture, we asked some of our own staff (50/50 male and female, aged between 18 and 34) about their shopping preferences, finding that most would rather shop online for convenience and value.

Those favouring online shopping quoted better prices and next-day-delivery, as well as discount codes and easy access to reviews as key reasons for their choice. For high-street shoppers, it was the hands-on experience of trying on clothes that sealed the deal.