Why experiential showroom-style stores are the future of city-centre retail

To save the high street retail industry, change is imperative. Never before have city centres seen a challenge like they are currently faced with, as stores slowly lose their appeal and consumer habits switch towards the online market. But there is so much more to it than just the ease of online purchases.

The idea of the retail store is becoming obsolete. Last year, an executive at Apple announced that its stores should no longer be referred to by that title – instead, they have been renamed ‘town squares’ with ‘avenues’ rather than aisles to make it more a place where people congregate rather than just shop.  

Having a retail space that is easy to navigate, can drive intrigue through innovation and makes consumers want to visit is key to keeping the high street shopping scene afloat.

On face value it may seem pretentious, but this slight alteration drives consumer intrigue and can help bolster footfall numbers through creating a more experiential retail environment.

From channelling the best of the web to incorporating innovative digital solutions, UXG has taken a look at just why the future of retail is all about creating unique customer experiences.

Giving your store an online feel

The key to creating a retail space that customers will want to come into is to connect the offline and online worlds through data. Figures are constantly highlighting how consumer trends are slowly orientating more towards the internet being the go-to for retail purchases, so adopting a digital transformation can help build experiential stores.

The customer banes of in-store shopping include the frustrating action of queuing to pay for the items they are looking to purchase, as well as having to carry said item around – which can be an inconvenience, especially in city centres where consumers often take public transport over driving. Yet this inconvenience can be appeased and, potentially, eradicated, through adopting an online mindset.

Rather than having queues of customers waiting for cashiers to process and pack purchases, having interactive screens for consumers to order and pay for items can increase store efficiencies and improve the overall experience. Those looking to purchase from the store have the ability to feel, handle and try on the goods (a key driver for offline retail) whilst being able to efficiently pay for it and have the item delivered to their home address (a key driver for online retail purchases). This can even be pushed to every shopper using a smartphone app to act as their ‘basket’, allowing them to browse their potential purchases.

Having the ability to offer this service, through digital solutions can help create an experience-based environment for customers to visit and purchase within. The perceived hassles of in-store shopping are removed, yet the benefits of visiting a physical store are kept.

Allowing customers to immerse themselves in your product

To encourage more consumers to visit high street stores, brands must improve their offering to create an immersive experience that people want to visit. The idea of “retailtainment” is more prevalent than ever. Shopping is no longer just about shopping – it’s about being experiential.

In a physical immersive experience, skateboard and clothing retailer Vans has taken this idea to the next level. Within its House of Vans complex, the brand has built a skatepark where riders can skate whilst looking to make potential purchase. The venue also has its own music space for bands to play in. This form of experience, for Vans’ audience, is perfect.

But in a high street retail space, the emphasis needs to be centred around going digital. Browsing rails of clothes no longer meets the consumer demand within a retail environment – consumers want something that will grab their attention and make them want to be there. Through using digital displays, radio-frequency identification (RFID) and ultra sound technology, the shopping experience can be bolstered.

By RFID-tagging products and incorporating ultra sound onto the rails, retailers can track what items have been picked up by a customer. Then, the items they have deliberated purchasing can be showcased on digital screens or hand-held devices within the store, which can help retailers to influence consumer decisions. Through this technology, stores can also showcase the most popular ‘picks’ to customers on digital signage – again, creating an experiential environment for shoppers and a position of commercial gain for retailers.

Standing out from the competition with innovation

To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Seeing off your competition is integral in the retail industry, and the most efficient way to do so is create an experiential store that really stands out from the crowd.

Within the coming years, expect smart mirrors to become the norm in all retail clothing outlets – but to stave off the threats of the current high street climate, getting these in sooner rather than later could be a huge benefit to high street businesses.

By having these mirrors in store changing rooms, customers can request different sizes and colours of products through an interactive, digital solution sending notifications to the sales assistant. The connected mirrors could also lend inspiration to customers by bringing a more experimental showroom style, offering a “you may also like” feature to highlight similar products they may be interested in on the mirrored screen.

The use of holograms to showcase products can also add an experiential element to a retail environment. Operated through touch screen devices, users can view projections of items in varying colours and styles available to them, whilst also being able to rotate and zoom in on the products. This state-of-the-art innovation can help brands stand out from the crowd by creating an experiential store where consumers want to go, rather than have to go.

The future of in-store retail is going digital

For retail brands, opting for a digital transformation over an optimisation may seem a drastic step to take. But, in reality, enabling data-led digital solutions has to be seen as a much-needed investment in order to prevent the high street slipping away even further.

Of course, retail is only as good as its technology, so there may be initial teething problems as technology improves. But even in the short term, customers will react positively trying something new. In the long term, opting for this sort of experiential store can help revive and potentially save a retail environment from the similar fate many others are currently facing.

Having a retail space that is easy to navigate, can drive intrigue through innovation and makes consumers want to visit is key to keeping the high street shopping scene afloat. This experimental store model utilising digital solutions can reinvigorate the high street and draw consumers back from depths of online to enjoy a physical shopping experience once again.

For more details on retail projects that UXG has previously worked on, click here.