Survival of the fittest; the rebirth of retail and how to succeed

The future of physical retail has never looked more uncertain.

In recent years it has been difficult to ignore the signs that traditionally formatted bricks and mortar stores are no longer satisfying shoppers’ needs.

Brands who have ignored the warnings and failed to shift their focus have fallen by the wayside, crumbling under the might of online offerings and a dramatic change in shopping habits.

Add the global pandemic into the equation and those warnings have become stark reality for some who may not weather the storm.

The year 2020 and its many pitfalls aside, shoppers were already demanding so much more from brands and this has only been brought into sharper focus over the past six months.

Since high streets and malls reopened, albeit with a new focus on hygiene and safety, brands have had to work harder than ever to create the kind of space and experience their customers crave.

As time rushes on, failure of stores to embrace the obvious need to significantly change their approach will undoubtedly result in further decline in footfall and sales.

Modern retail trends

The fact is, today’s consumer is a complicated soul.

And, while online purchases are convenient and rapid, shoppers are still keen to explore, engage and give their time to physical retail – so long as it ticks their many complex boxes.

No longer will bland aisles laden with products offering little to no information suffice.

Granted, browsing is still very much a thing to the modern shopper, but they need a reason to show up and do that and, without the appeal of a new experience or meaningful engagement, they may not step over the threshold at all.

Experience has become an industry buzzword in recent years, and for good reason.

The rebirth of retail depends on it and those who do it well will succeed.

Shoppers want to feel part of something, a need that may well have been amplified by lockdown and subsequent restrictions, as most of us were cut off from chunks of our family, friends and colleagues for months on end.

Modern consumers are looking for a fresh approach – something uplifting and mood enhancing to obsess over and throw themselves into.

The evolution of social media has played a role in ramping up this need to belong or be associated with something new and exciting, as online communities are now an integral part of our lives.

This sense of community must be reflected both in the physical and virtual versions of any brand in order for their customers to subscribe to their culture.

While experiences such as innovative brand launches, events and pop ups are becoming more commonplace on the high street, they are often short-lived by nature and can be nothing more than a flash in the pan, hooking customers in for only a short snap of time.

This freshness and excitement must be replicated in the everyday.

From the point of conception of an idea, the end goal for retailers must be to continually appeal to and engage with shoppers, consistently offering intriguing, compelling reasons to shop.

Customer experience is key

Populating the shop floor with exactly the right team is a good place to start.

Suitable character traits are vital as people who can genuinely connect, relate and empathise with the consumer will make a real difference to the vibe of a store in an instant.

Add meticulous training and development to the pot and shoppers will automatically feel heard and understood, as well as confident the person advising them on which product will suit them best can be trusted.

Brand ambassadors who really know what they are talking about and truly believe in their product can make a significant difference to a shopper’s experience and their likelihood to buy.

There is that word again. Experience.

Defined in the dictionary as “a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something”, in-store experiences have become paramount to retail success.







Embracing new changes

Experiences in the real world have been hard to come by this year but, with a new normal now in place, we are ready to see what is out there and grab it with both (sanitised) hands – whether on the shop floor or in other, more unique settings.

During lockdown, smart brands took the initiative to shift their experiences to the virtual world, offering online demonstrations or masterclasses, as well as opportunities for customers to chat and have questions answered on a one-to-one basis.

Today’s shopper also has a conscience so purchase decisions are more likely to be affected by a desire shop sustainably and reduce any negative impact on the planet.

Retailers now have a responsibility to be proactive in sourcing products with genuine longevity that can be reused, repurposed or recycled.

The throwaway generation is over and these changes must be embraced in order to align with consumer need, not to mention the huge benefits to Earth itself.

Selfridges is the perfect example of a brand taking the climate crisis seriously.

In August this year Project Earth was launched – a sustainability initiative that will touch every corner of their business as they commit to completely altering how they trade with suppliers and how customers shop with them by 2025.

The shape of success for brands

However you look at it, retail as a concept has shifted dramatically in recent years for a multitude of reasons.

As creative or appealing as they may seem on the surface, half-hearted, short-lived solutions are no longer enough and traditional brands must apply a new and holistic way of thinking in order to secure their future success.

If you are looking to boost awareness of your brand with a creative retail experience, get in touch with Stellar.

Find more of our blog articles on retail experiences here.

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