The Post Office has opened the doors to its design lab which houses a concept store inspired by the likes of Apple and Argos with digital screens, iPads and free WiFi – the most tangible sign yet of its brand overhaul.
Pete Markey, the Post Office’s newly appointed chief marketing officer, told The Drum that the heritage brand is not “on a comms journey” and people don’t need to be reminded of what the Post Office is with a marketing campaign; they need evidence of change and that the brand is trying to make life easier for them - something he hopes this store demonstrates .
“[The concept store] is very modern and progressive; it's still the Post Office that you know and love but you can see how it’s changing,” he said.
Most noticeably, the reimagined Post Office has strayed from its traditional pillar box red and white in-store branding and has embraced a vivid colour palette of pinks and turquoise throughout the space - a concrete sign of its split from the Royal Mail in 2012.
Following the likes of Amazon and Waitrose, a bank of collection lockers greet customers outside of the store - one of the first steps to making the Post Office a 24 hour service - while panels of lockers also line the inside walls.
Financial services is now a key area of the new Post Office proposition and the brand is trailing booths where customers in need of advice can talk to an expert via a video call. It is an area Markey said he is particularly excited about as it offers a personal service but in a much more efficient way.
Elsewhere, a government services area powered by tablets aims to make the process of applying for licences a simpler affair while a series of self-service parcel drop-off points make sending post a quick and easy process.
Much like the Apple in-store experience, the traditional counters are gone in favour of “roaming” staff with tablets. The space has also been peppered with digital touchscreens, from large tablet tables to wall panels, which encourage people to discover Post Office services and products for themselves.
And, inspired by Argos, there is a digital feature wall which will showcase Post Office TV content such as relevant messages, adverts, and product information. Markey said in time the Post Office’s social steams could also be integrated into it.
“A few local branches have their own Twitter feeds so we could localise it. There’s a big opportunity for that,” said Markey.
Last month, the Post Office revealed it was entering the mobile market and had partnered with EE to launch its own phone network before the end of the year.
Markey said it is a “game-changing” proposition, although refused to be drawn on the finer details. However, he did reveal there is a team working on how it will be incorporated into Post Office branches.
Referring to the touch-screen wall panel, he said the service could be like a vending machine where “you press this button to say I want this phone on this sort of package and it will pop out of the bottom.”
“This won’t be there from day one but this is where we want to get it to,” he said, adding that a Post Office own-brand phone is not off the cards.
“You can see it can’t you? I was sat next to our CEO – Paula Vennells – in a meeting this morning and she had a Post Office phone cover I was thinking ‘that looks really good actually’….so you never know.”
Similarly, Markey said he is keeping an eye on what other retailers are doing with Beacon technology.
“We haven’t tested any of that within here yet but it’s something I’m definitely watching for. It’s all about insight and helps you get closer to your customers and I’m really up for that sort of thing,” he explained.
Markey added that the beauty of the design lab is that the Post Office can play about with technology likes Beacons or a mobile vending machines without investing too heavily.
“Not all of this will work,” he said. “It will be refined and we’ll keep ripping bits out and putting bits in; we’ll keep refining that customer journey.”
The retailer has rolled out some elements of the new store, like self-service kiosks, to around 2,500 branches already. However, Markey said that within the next six months he hopes to see the first full digital store on a UK high street.
The concept store was created in partnership with retail design specialists Edge.
In June this year, when he was just five weeks into the CMO role, Markey revealed his plans for moderninsing the Post Office and explained the part data would play in creating a "read thread" across the brand.