In this century of enormous transformation, brands are increasingly aware of, the need to be proactive and establish themselves online in order to escape the consequences of falling behind and lose their competitive advantages. This impact of technology, particularly on content-based products like recorded music and books, is all too clear. The demise of Woolworths – once one of the UK’s largest music retailers – and the difficulties currently being experienced by HMV are perhaps the most poignant examples of how the Internet and digital technology has contributed to changing shopping habits and the retail landscape.
What many retailers nowadays are failing to understand however, is how physical brick-and-mortar stores are still as important as entering the digital landscape. This becomes vital in an era where customer service quality can be the difference for brands seeking to gain an edge over their competitors. Given that more and more people are migrating online, a crucial part of retaining their interest is to offer them the best experience possible in a real-world setting. The new wave of retail stores that thrive on delivering this superior customer service is through conveying an emotive brand experience in what LS:N Global calls ‘The Tomorrow Store’.
Accordingly, this concept explains the change towards delivering customer service through an almost theatrical experience, where retailers are aiming to engage with all of consumers’ five sense in their physical retail stores. That way, by engaging with your customers through an experience, a positive emotional ambiance is created where customers feel involved and an element of fun becomes embedded. This consequently leads the shopping experience to be an engaging and memorable one where brand loyalty can be established.
Great examples of experiential led retail offers have been appearing in shopping destinations over the last couple of years. Apple, which actively encourages consumers to play with their products and offers free workshops to help familiarize potential customers with software products, is perhaps one of the most obvious. In fashion retail there’s youth brands like Hollister, where shop front design, store layout, lighting, music and staff presentation are carefully managed to provide a consistent expression of the brand. Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury vehicle brand, evokes emotion and a sense of excitement when customers are introduced to their brand new car by letting them pull the covers off it, for the big reveal.
More contemporary and innovative examples are set to further revolutionise retailing, most remarkably in the new state-of-the-art Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport. According to Airports Council International, income from shoppers makes up 34%, on average, of an airport’s overall turnover. This figure becomes pivotal in getting the retail strategy correct for Heathrow’s new terminal as it expects to welcome 30 million passengers every year. Through its modern architecture and design cues, such as ‘a ceiling-high glass wall that provides a window on to the runway and additional natural light streams’, Heathrow encourages brands to experiment with new retail concepts that challenge the service design principle and status quo.
Adidas, a prominent brand of the 21st century, is capitalizing on this opportunity through its new wave of ‘Home Court’ stores that is set to transform the entire complexion of brick-and-mortars. The idea behind Home Court is to engage customers with more breath and depth of the Adidas brand than ever before where “the store has the look and feel of an arena, with the entrance resembling the tunnel players use to emerge on to a sports field”. The brand experience is further augmented by interactive touch-screens that allow shoppers to search online for products that meet their needs. Ultimately, Home Court stores pioneer a truly interactive retail experience that evokes all senses and emotion that revolutionizes service design and delivery.
Launched earlier this year in Beijing, Adidas has already brought the concept to the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent last month and it is set to take its place in Heathrow’s brand new Terminal 2. Unquestionably, the terminal will accommodate Home Court stores perfectly with a highly intuitive, ‘bright, open-plan layout … designed to help passengers navigate the terminal more easily’. This enables a great visual connection that will almost guarantee maximum exposure to Home Court and the Adidas brand.
Conceptualizing an interactive experience that is delivered inside the physical contours of a brick-and-mortar outlet, modern concepts like Home Court will drive the ‘Tomorrow Store’, combining both worlds of online and offline retail. Thomas Pink and Yo! Sushi are other early adopter brands that have jumped on this bandwagon and have started incorporating technology into their stores. Understanding the value of technology in people’s lives, Thomas Pink utilizes large touch-screen tables in its outlets, enabling customers to design their personalized garments and have them made and delivered to them anywhere in the world. Food giant Yo! Sushi meanwhile, is pioneering a mobile ordering system, allowing customers to order their food from their smart-phone app, transforming the service experience.
Ultimately, it is not difficult to understand that these changes and developments are collectively contributing to a new dimension of delivering a first-class customer service through innovative and emotional pioneered retail solutions. It would be naive to think that online retailers that offer more flexibility and convenience will completely replace brick-and-mortars when nothing comes close to a physical store to provide the real retail experience in the real world.
Importantly, it is paramount to grasp that bland, generic store experiences are no longer enough to lure customers of today. The ‘Tomorrow Store’ has to be social, emotive, and theatrical in engaging all senses at all touch points of the brand experience. Significantly, this has to be coupled with innovation, delivering an interactive shopping experience as technology unavoidably surrounds our everyday lives and will continue to do so in ways that are unimaginable.
The ‘Tomorrow Store’ is here today, and before technology makes it the yesterday store, it is time for brands to take action and transform their retail and service designs to successfully convey a world-class brand experience within their brick-and-mortar outlets that will serve the emotional needs of customers and be instrumental in establishing brand loyalty in the long run.
By: Burak Serin
Influenced by the Article ‘Service Design is Revolutionizing Retail’ (Marketing Week, 2014)
Adidas Group Chief Sales Officer Consumer Direct, Michael Stainer, speaks about the plans for Home Courts European roll-out:
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