Retail’s new format

2017-01-12 –

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics in the UK suggest that 87% of retailer sales still come from “bricks and mortar” stores. It’s led many industry experts to predict that experiential, not digital, is now the real future of retail, with even traditional online retailers such as Amazon and Ebay now investing in real-world shopping experiences.

Right now, many of the most ‘connected’ retailers in the UK are not the most immediately obvious. John Lewis has a long-standing retail heritage. It is an established bricks and mortar retailer, and yet is arguably one of the very few mainstream high street retailers to truly join-up brand delivery – ensuring the retail experience online, in its windows and in-store is wholly integrated, and done so with ruthless consistency. At first glance, it may appear unremarkable but, importantly, there is little disconnect between touchpoints – letting shoppers enjoy the functional benefits of great service online, and the joys of an aspirational and very tangible retail experience in-store. Shoppers shop the brand, not the channel, and delivering the same brand experience, regardless of touchpoint, is vitally important if shoppers are to remain engaged, satisfied and loyal.

This seamless integration, between traditional and new, is a major trend within UK retail right now. In this age of the connected shopper, where the path to purchase extends far beyond the four walls of a store, it’s often easy to ignore the impact that a well-considered and compelling message, delivered using established POS tools, can have on purchase decisions. Established POS display solutions still very much have their place, with smart retailers and brands understanding that a range of in-store touchpoints are needed to attract shoppers.

It is important not to be blinkered into thinking that every piece of retail communication has to be delivered via a backlit screen in order for it to be effective. Part of the very reason digital used to achieve instant standout was because it was unique and different. But as adoption has become greater, it has become familiar and expected. The means of delivering is no longer the differentiator. Instead, it’s about how you bring the message to life.  

The challenge for retail brands and agencies is to come up with marketing communication that is overarching and consistent in its ‘voice’, yet adapted to take into account the different mindstate and needs of audiences, depending on the touchpoint. When it comes to in-store activations that means clearly communicating why shoppers should choose one brand over another at the moment of purchase consideration.

In all adds up to the fact that marketers need to think less in silos. Get it right and some of the old lines of demarcation across marketing disciplines will be replaced by lines of fully engaged shoppers at the till, which would translate rather well to the bottom-line.