Succeeding Inside the Store

By Nancy Liberman, VP Marketing at JRNI

As the UK is again in national lockdown with only essential retail open, retailers have time for reflection and a chance to reimagine the customer experience.  While COVID-19 has called for immediate visible changes in brick-and-mortar stores – from social distance floor decals to plexiglass partitions – it will also create lasting effects on the in-store experience and retailers’ ability to connect with customers. Stores will need to become more flexible and work harder to adapt to rapidly changing disruptive scenarios. Consumer expectations for convenience, efficiency and seamless fulfilment will be higher than ever before.

A new emphasis on store exteriors

With increasing click and collect services, retailers should take advantage of engagement with shoppers via their store exteriors, windows and car parks. Retailers need to consider exterior footprints from the viewpoint of customers using collection services – for example repositioning the click and collect area to give shoppers a view inside the store, or having appealing signage and displays outside.   It’s not enough just to offer click and collect or kerbside pickup, it needs be a great experience for the shopper.

Using design and technology to reimagine experiential retail

Moving inside, the physical store will need to balance giving shoppers both a safe and comfortable environment and enjoyable, memorable experiences — all in a seamless and effortless way.  Utilising technologies that enable enhanced footfall management will support retailers in creating environments shoppers feel comfortable visiting. This involves deploying directional signage, re-designed store layouts and capacity managers to maximize space for shoppers to browse and move between aisles and product areas.

Many innovations that have been in the works for years — contactless payments, streamlined transactions, mobile integration, will come into play.  However contactless solutions will now have to expand beyond checkout, including changing rooms and product testing.

As retailers welcome shoppers back into store, first impressions are vital and front of store transformation will be key.  Everything from POS, fixtures and materials’ selection needs to evolve.   Flexibility will be crucial, with an emphasis on fixtures made from materials that are durable and easier to clean, as well as comprising modularity for quick transformations.  Merchandising transformation may also occur, including changing the ways retailers place, stock and present SKUs on shelves.

The integration of technology for more experiential spaces includes exciting new elements such as projection mapping — to allow brands to unlock a new dimension of design — and sound spatialization, which refers to using sound to create specific and unique sonic environments within spaces. The use of sound will evolve from today’s curated music playlists to sophisticated soundscapes for noise control and creative sonic experiences.  There will be a more holistic approach to stirring the senses beyond touch, with the introduction of calming and therapeutic colours, infusion of scent and music, and more usage of kinetic technology.

The human connection

Post-pandemic, the need for human connection and community will be greater than ever before — amplifying the need for experiential retail. Harnessing appointment-based experiential retail will allow for human connection whilst social distancing, as will the use of mobile in-store to enhance engagement while minimising high-touch surfaces. To make the most of the contactless and convenient technologies that have been adopted during the pandemic, retailers will need to study customer preference data to determine which solutions they should invest in. Personalising tech offerings to individual shoppers has the potential to increase customer satisfaction and provide a stronger ROI for the retailer.

The future of retail experiences has one thing in common, and that’s putting consumers first.  People don’t just want to visit a store, they want to take part in a brand immersion and escape reality.

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