As many small and independent brands are set to re-open their physical doors in the run up to Christmas, it’s safe to say many may have lost their spark and motivation along the 2020 road. Consumers have been tricky to win back from digital spending, and they now expect more than ever when setting foot into a store space. Brand experiences must now be exceptional, both holding value and staying safe. How can retailers continue to become multifunctional and morph beyond ‘just’ being a store itself?
The key remains in being able to bring value into a consumer’s life in different functions, and many brands are taking different approaches to try and achieve this. A popular method has proven to be turning back-of-store space into a ‘dark store’, or a mini-fulfilment centre. The idea behind it is for retailers to successfully and quickly implement either store-to-store or home delivery. Used first to keep up with demand following the pandemic, smaller brands could now be seen following in the footsteps of big global players in order to cope with seasonal bulk. Developing automated fulfilment systems is likely to help brand dark stores function with a much smaller footprint. The move to dark stores could also look to become permanent after the fact, with cheap delivery and quick access becoming consumer must-haves, while store assets are overall less viable. Taking inventory for various locations could make sure stock isn’t sitting unsold while day-to-day traffic remains at lower levels.
Ecommerce sales now require around three times the amount of logistics space in terms of traditional distribution. Following this, there is likely to be a surge in demand for flexible retail design or order to continue to adapt. With fewer customers and increased chances of store conversions, a retail space will now need to follow the product’s journey just as much as a consumer’s. Encompassing a more fluid framework can ensure the physical can operate in a flexible capacity that reflects that of a brand’s digital space. Redesigning existing concepts could be achieved with temporary walls and fixtures that can be quickly modified with ease, adhering to distancing guidelines while still catering to the needs of the customer. With both a pandemic way of living and online shopping showing no signs of slowing down, brands who analyse online orders and local consumer density can allow them to decide where logistics may be best suited, and can therefore fulfil a cost-effective, next-day service.
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