Enticing people to the High Street with experiential retail

By James Morris-Manuel, the Managing Director of Europe at Matterport

In today’s retail climate, enticing consumers back to the High Street is a challenge. Even before COVID-19 struck, physical retail was struggling as consumers chose online over bricks and mortar. This resulted in an unprecedented number of closures. The pandemic only exacerbated this issue, with several nationwide lockdowns forcing consumers indoors and to the world of ecommerce to feed their shopping habits, with some physical retail locations never re-opening their doors. However, despite lockdown restrictions lifting across the UK, High Street footfall levels has still not reached pre-pandemic numbers. Matterport research has shown that crowded stores and a fear of getting sick are two of the top factors that are stopping consumers from shopping in-store.


Innovate, innovate, innovate

To survive, retailers need to focus on innovation to not only encourage consumers back to the High Street, but demonstrate how safe their shops are. Consumers want to interact with brands in new and exciting ways, and, thanks to the rise in ecommerce, have come to expect a certain level of convenience when shopping. It’s time for retailers to adapt their physical spaces to meet their changing shopping habits, and this comes down to blending the benefits of physical shops and ecommerce into a unified virtual world that delivers innovative experience, giving retailers an edge.

There is plenty of demand for this too. Matterport’s research found that although consumers prefer the convenience of online shopping and are excited by the way online retail is evolving, they long for more compelling shopping experiences. As a result, retailers would be naïve to think that online is where they should be focusing all of their efforts. Consumers want retailers to grab their attention, and are seeking a deeper engagement than scrolling through a two-dimensional site. This is where experiential retail can really show its true value.

The future is experiential

Experiential retail is taking the industry by storm, and we are already seeing evidence of retailers creating exceptional immersive experiences. Brands are now able to launch products with 3D digital twins otherwise known as digital copies of the built world. It gives consumers the opportunity to visit the store virtually, no matter where they are in the world, before the physical space had even opened. That’s the value of this technology; it makes retail so much more accessible.

Although once considered futuristic, digital twins are fast becoming a reality for many retailers. Digital twins use AI-powered 3D technology to scan a space, no matter the size, to create a virtual twin. By using this technology, consumers can virtually visit a shop before they set foot inside, browse the latest promotions, get a feel for a product before even touching it, and even try on clothes virtually. The virtual replica also goes a long way to rebuild consumer confidence that may have been impacted by the pandemic, as retailers can demonstrate the measures they are taking to ensure consumer safety. Fast and easy to produce, retailers can use digital twins to unlock numerous opportunities for consumer engagement and conversation.

Surviving in retail is becoming increasingly more difficult, which is why using innovative technology such as digital twins can give the industry the new lease of life it so desperately needs. Consumers have rising expectations and experiential retail is a powerful way to win them over and gain their loyalty. Retailers who ignore the opportunity risk becoming obsolete in the years to come.

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