If consumers aren’t consuming, what are they doing? How experience is disrupting retail.

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

The retail experience is changing

Is the high street dead? Not yet. Nor will it be any time soon as retail evolves with the truly irresistible merging of physical and digital. Resulting in the customer journey becoming unprecedentedly connective as new technology allows us to transport brands, products, and services directly into the consumer’s world. Creating more meaningful and memorable experiences.

For consumers, the future will be less about consuming and more about developing a relationship with a brand based on trust, convenience and experience. In the post-truth world, brands have a huge opportunity to fulfil consumer’s desire for trust.

In store, this means making it easier for people to build affinity. Brands need to provide more interesting, meaningful experiences facilitated by tech – which is very much the enabler, not the main event.

Unforgettable experiences

For the launch of their new Deerupt sneaker at Champs Sports in Times Square, Adidas married digital and physical to create unforgettable experiences. These included a floor display that rhythmically disrupted as shoppers walked across it, as well as the chance to take photos in store that were instantly displayed on billboards outside.

To help customers make the most of their new devices, John Lewis runs tech workshops in their newest stores. While Ikea’s Place app lets users see how a piece of furniture would look in their home via their smartphone camera. This try-before-you- buy scenario eliminates the need to visit the store several times to sit on that sofa and imagine what it might look like in your home.

Convenience should be a vital part of in-store affinity-building. For example, by enabling customers to fill up an online shopping cart before buying instore to enjoy a personal service. This tactic could be employed particularly well by record stores, as the resurgence of vinyl demonstrates our enduring relationship with physicality and value. Physical experiences also make people think more about what they’re consuming – unlike hitting play on yet another disposable Spotify playlist.

Relationship building

The service customers receive and the relationship they develop with a store are key to brands successfully building trust and affinity. In a perfect blend of online data and in-store experience, designer clothing retailer Farfetch sparks one-to-one conversations in store based on what they know about a customer from their online activity. Allowing them to drive sales as well as gain further insights on each customer’s preferences.

But this relationship needs to be built on the customer’s terms. They have a single view of a brand, not different criteria for the many touchpoints. From social to online to real world interactions, it all needs to be seamless and cohesive.

Capturing results

As experience becomes ever more critical, how do brands measure to ensure they’re building trust authentically with the right audience? Intelligent data capture is key – pinpointing where in the journey will have the greatest impact and result in more effective operations that create the most value for the customer. Their actions provide answers. How are they interacting, when are they buying, what barriers stop them buying? Learn from your customers to give them a better experience. Data also enables you to find and dominate niche audiences that are overlooked by the competition.

Looking ahead

So what does it all mean in relation to the future of the high street? People increasingly want relationships, not just to buy stuff. This shift in consumer attitude opens the door to creating more premium, personal experiences, facilitated by tech. Essentially, brands need to genuinely care about what customers want. Because while products can be copied and prices undercut, a compelling experience is far harder to replicate. And experiences are becoming the new consumables.

Adam Reynolds, senior copywriter at Intermarketing Agency

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