While the majority of high street shops have reopened since the enforced closure during lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic has notably accelerated the already rapid evolution of the retail landscape.

If they were not already doing so due to the overwhelming popularity of online shopping in recent years, brands have certainly had to hurriedly adapt and remap how they influence their customers’ desire to buy since COVID-19.

No longer able to rely solely on in-store experience, any retailers trailing behind must now revisit their strategies and create compelling, omnichannel experiences that reach beyond the shop floor.

Experiences that also function well in the virtual world to draw in, engage and inspire customers, both new and existing, to buy time and again.

Forming strong, long-lasting connections with online communities can only serve to future-proof brands as shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores moves into yet another phase, shifting once again as the after effects of the pandemic roll on.

And, with the global reach capabilities of the online market, the world becomes smaller allowing buyers and sellers to more easily connect regardless of location.

Opportunities become infinite.

When getting creative with their strategies, brands must consider important statistics surrounding shoppers’ behaviours when on the look out for a specific product.

Research carried out by Stellar in early 2020 (pre-pandemic), showed a staggering 80 per cent of consumers are more likely to buy a product if they have been given the opportunity to try it before making a final commitment.

Furthermore, 84 per cent of respondents stated they would be more inclined to buy from the same brand again, if they knew a product demonstration from an expert would be available to them.

It makes complete sense shoppers would feel more trusting of a brand willing to go the extra mile by teaching them exactly how to get the best from the product they are investing in, whether in-store, in a unique learning environment away from the shop floor or now, more than ever, online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-coronavirus, much of the high street was already transitioning in order to offer more in the way of face to face experiences for customers visiting their stores, providing them with unique and captivating opportunities in order to achieve a sale and, in turn, build brand loyalty.

More brands were embracing demonstrations and immersive experiences as a means of creating a buzz around certain products, enabling communities to form and interact with each other, as well as with the brand itself.

Since the three month closure of non-essential stores, and the subsequent slow and tentative return of customers to an almost clinical environment in which to shop, the need to adopt a multi-faceted approach across all touch-points, both physical and virtual, has become patently obvious.

Encouraging shoppers to revisit the high street currently is a task in itself.

Although many were eager to get back to their favourite stores, some are understandably still anxious about queuing outside and spending time in closer proximity to others in city centres and shopping malls.

They first need to be reassured hygiene is high on the agenda, while enticed with new and exciting reasons to visit stores, so to direct marketing budgets towards demonstrations where staff can safely connect with customers on a more personal level and build trust, is a smart move.

These personalised experiences available in-store must also translate virtually, giving people the option to access them online while still meeting the individual needs of the shopper.

New methods of achieving this must be explored by brands as consumers are becoming increasingly more expectant of a seamless transition between the virtual and physical service they encounter.

Creative and authentic shopping experiences online, such as demonstrations or masterclasses, can still give customers a genuine feel and a deeper level of understanding of a product, empowering them to make an educated choice, despite not being able to physically touch it.

Brands who accomplish this and continue to push forward from a technology perspective are undoubtedly more likely to succeed in the long term.

In recent years, digital disruption had already forced the hand of the high street, bringing about significant change as retailers battled against the force of the internet by searching for original formats to appeal to their customers, such as product sampling and pop ups.

But now it is vital both platforms are given equal airtime as there is an undeniable hunger for physical and virtual shopping experiences.

Given the huge potential for online content, there has been a clear increase in brands building communities through social media, using live video streams, bringing people together through their discoveries.

Virtual and augmented reality has also grown in popularity affording retailers a means of creating interactive and customised shopping experiences for consumers to take part in while at home, enabling them to ’step into’ immersive environments to enjoy tours or product demos.

These opportunities further galvanise faith in a brand as they become as transparent as possible in the virtual world, leaving customers feeling as though they have genuinely experienced and gathered real information about the product.

Post-COVID, we predict an even bigger demand for product launches and experiential retail.

These formats were already gathering momentum and we believe the current crisis and its aftermath will only serve to speed up the need for bricks-and-mortar stores to enhance and increase their creative offerings.

Technology in-store will play a huge role in these experiences to maximise impact, and grab the attention of the physical audience as soon as they step through the door, all the while seamlessly continuing the theme online.

Despite the crisis, damage limitation is possible.

Get creative and make the most of online opportunities while keeping your customers at the heart of your strategy, embracing their thirst for community and experience.

By making the right business moves now, physical retailers can minimise losses by growing in the booming e-commerce market, laying the foundations for continued success once the storm has passed and beyond.

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