Monday, 5 September 2011

The Real Shopping Experience

In my day job as a retail marketing consultant, I work with clients to maximise the 4 walls of retail by introducing marketing, advertising, design and technology smarts - this is all designed to positively influence the shopping experience.
However its been hard to stay positive about my profession lately when all I read in the media is doom and gloom suggesting retailing is dead and consumers would prefer to sit at home on the internet shopping.
Personally I believe the tangible experience will always win over the virtual one, sure you can get a bargain online, you can browse for hours uninterrupted and you don't need to queue but the trade off is the experience is impersonal and uninspiring.
I should point out I am a typical `new consumer', my smart phone is my companion, I spend way too much time on social networks than I would care to admit and I embrace new technology however this does not mean I want to spend my spare time glued to my computer.
So why do we need stores and what is their role in this changing world?
I have a theory that the retail store is an essential part of our society and no matter how technology evolves the store will always be needed, why you ask?
1. Consumers have 5 senses and a great experience is a full sensory one 
2. Shopping is a social sport and socialising involves people
3. A picture tells a thousand words but being their in person tells you even more
I have been road testing this theory with some friends, all of whom are avid online shoppers, for most women the main draw card of online tends to be bargain basement designer clothing and shoes.
So when asked if the clothing purchased online had been seen or tried on in a store before purchase, almost everyone said yes, this part of the shopping experience was critical to ensuring the product was of good quality, the right size, the right fabric and the right choice - so you could say for the brand itself they still won in the end because they got a sale. Unfortunately for the reseller, they got a browser not a buyer this time, but could they have done things differently?
I believe all is not lost here, there are alot of great examples of innovative retailers adding value to their shopping experience, enough to make the customer want to show their loyalty and keep coming back.
I came across a great one on the weekend in Yarra Glen, Yarra Valley wine region. A small home interiors and gift store added a new twist to their experience with an art gallery out the back of the store. This was particularly clever for a number of reasons: it encouraged people to walk through the store, regular exhibition events will drive repeat visitation and even more impressive their first exhibition paired local boutique wine labels with erotic art, something for everyone.
I was also pleased to see today in Westfield Sydney some great branded environment design and visual merchandising which always makes me feel inspired. I get such joy out of walking into stores which are visually appealing. For me the experience starts outside the store, the window display needs to be intriguing and unique, then as I step through the door I want to be wowed by the interior design of the space and see something new and innovative.
So if you are thinking of shopping this weekend please think about taking a stroll to your local retailers and rewarding them for their hard work and efforts because without them we would be lost.
I apologise this subject is not strictly about design, I actually am a guest speaker at the Retail 2011 Expo and Conference next week and just finished my first live television interview on Sky News Business so my head is filled with retail thoughts tonight.
Thanks for reading...and please share your thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear them.