It’s All About People
These days retailers place a huge amount of focus, effort and money on in-store technology and ‘going digital’, to create a frictionless interaction between online and offline retail channels. And there are some fantastic new in-store innovations that do just that: face recognition, virtual reality, augmented reality, virtual colleagues, and remote advice.
The thing is that the key factor in the physical brand space is your people. Whether it’s a fixed store, pop up, shared space, or vehicle, it’s your people that inspire and engage.
Once upon a time, when life was simpler and lifestyles more linear, we shared our views, likes, and dislikes about things like our regular local supermarket – you know, the one where you loaded up a trolley of groceries for the weekly shop!
Today this is shifting. We love talking about the people with whom we interact, rather than talking about shops or brands themselves. Good or bad, these service experiences cement our view of a particular brand. In fact, talk to most people about their best retail experience and they’ll more than likely tell you about a friendly chat with a salesperson, or the lady at M&S that did something beyond the call of duty.
We love it when we get a free coffee from Pret a Manger, where staff members are empowered to give freebies away on a discretionary basis. And then we love telling our friends and work colleagues about it. We also love their friendliness and energy, whilst remaining super speedy. And those of us that study these things also love the fact that it’s the in-store Pret team (the folks on the counter, not the managers) that decides whether prospective employees will make the cut to join their team!
It’s also worth popping into a Metro Bank if you happen to be near one. All staff are recruited from progressive high street retailers – and their welcoming ‘can do’ attitude is the polar opposite to the ‘computer says no’ attitude we often face in retail banking. In fact, one of our retail banking clients in Europe just launched an internal initiative called ‘Project Freddy’ – named after a larger than life front of house Metro Bank staff member that we all met when we went on a ‘retail safari’ to see how other brands put innovation into action on the High Street.
Of course a brand must have a compelling proposition, and in the physical space it needs a sublime experience and environment to project and support this. A great script and screenplay are essential to any storytelling, but in the physical space retailers need to start with auditioning great actors – and not just rely on the fancy scenery.