Shoptalk Europe: Stop Thinking in Silos!

by | Department Store, Events, Retail Design

Last week saw our Joint Managing Director David and client Gunnar Ingi Sigurdsson presenting the incredibly successful and award-winning Hagkaup story to a packed audience at Shoptalk Europe, the pan-European event for innovation in retail commerce.

The three-day event hosted dozens of talks from the likes of Alibaba, Westfield, Rapha, Hudson’s Bay, Eataly, Amazon Prime and eBay.

What was the main takeaway of the sessions we attended? Physical stores still matter but you can’t just see them in isolation. Retailers need to stop thinking in online and offline silos, because customers just don’t think that way – they are completely channel agnostic.

And here’s why.

Stores are a Gateway

We can’t think of physical stores as a standalone entity with four walls, a floor, and a ceiling any more. They are something nodal – a gateway that’s interlinked to a wider network of brand touch-points. Stores are the window to a brand’s human side, something that can’t be realised online. They bring the brand to life through passionate colleagues that act as storytellers. Shops also serve as a focus and rallying cry for a retailer’s advocates and brand followers. They contribute to neighbourhoods and communities.

And finally, they can be the gateway to online communities too – witness Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace that facilitates consumer-to-consumer retail by providing a platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs to open online stores as well as stock their products in local shops. The platform uses AI solutions to enable distribution and make this happen.


The New Retail

Of course there’s still a place for stuff on shelves and racks in physical stores, but it’s diminishing, and making way for The New Retail, as Alibaba calls it. This is the sweet spot when a product or service has to be dramatised, when the outcome of buying needs to be imagined, or when the effect of buying or consuming is in some way transformational. Think building a bespoke Audi, immersing oneself in Eataly for all things related to Italian food, being part of Rapha Performance Roadwear’s global road cycling community, planning your next trip away to far flung destinations with Away Luggage, and getting a new look from Charlotte Tilbury’s professional make up artists.


Data and Advanced Technology

Technology isn’t the golden panacea – but it’s an important part of the retail mix.  AI, VR, AR… Machine learning is increasingly sophisticated and interwoven into our offline and online experiences. And it will grow exponentially very soon with the launch of 5G networks, which pave the way for the Internet of Things, a rich array of 50 billion interconnected smart things and devices at super fast speed. It will be easier than ever for retailers to leverage data and advanced technology to anticipate our needs and wants and then provide goods and services in a really personalised way.


Shift to Self-Improvement

Forget your own people at your peril – they’re your storytellers, representing the human and sociable element of the shopping experience. But don’t forget about consumers, and their ever evolving needs and purchase behaviours. These days, we shop online so we can spend more time in the park with our kids or we want to get out of the house to have a change of scene and spend time with our family and friends. In the world of ‘life priorities’, people have less and less time to go out shopping. But humans are innately social creatures that like being around other people, so physical retail is seeing a fundamental shift towards a ‘self-improvement’ mentality.

Westfield’s recently reopened Century City Los Angeles took advantage of this and created a new mix in the mall that includes cooking, health & beauty, fitness, travel and tech experiences for its visitors – all delivered in a beautiful environment.

Ultimately, the retail revolution is about creating a community or tribe through a compelling brand combined with a transformational product or service that enhances people’s lives, that’s delivered through passionate people.

Photo credits: Rapha, Eataly, Charlotte Tillbury, Topshop, Lululemon, Audi

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