Why Do We Need Physical Retail in a Digital World?
11 April 2021
Author: Jasmine Waters
Without a doubt, the last year has proved that we truly live in a digital-first world. With physical retail almost completely off the UK radar, digital has had no choice but to flourish, being the sole bearer of sales for many brands. As non-essential retail begins to open back up, lockdown habits may not die hard, as the convenience of shopping from the sofa takes a firm hold. What can retailers do to compensate, and why do we need physical spaces at all?
Is physical retail still important?
Moving back into normal life is bound to come with its own sense of trauma, with people wary of mixing in crowds or even touching things. Work-from-home life still shows no signs of disappearing, with the noticeable effects of missing tourist trade still apparent. Before stores became what we associate with them today, they merely existed as storage and distribution hubs. Now that e-commerce has piled on the pressure for stores to deliver things that can’t be bought online, brands must now turn to elements of the industry that focus more on entertainment value.
What can stores now become?
Now that stores aren’t a necessary visiting point, they can’t rely on products by themselves. Having to compete with leisure time often taken up by art galleries, restaurants and parks, brands need to return to the mindset of shopping as an experience. With this as a focus, we’re already seeing changes that rebrand shopping as a connected experience. Stores are re-opening with influences of exercise and outdoor community, hair salons and bars in pop-up form as well as the idea of an ‘experience concierge’, offering a taste of everything from floristry to kid’s toys. The distribution of these experiences – instead of products – now need to be at the centre of a business strategy, the physical space transforming into a stage and studio.
There now needs to be a certain sense of drama to taking on physical retail, more akin to television that the traditional retail format. Whereas retailers have used marketing to drive sales, the likelihood of transactions remaining online are high, which leaves stores to be marketed as experiences. The space itself is now a media channel, as well as an amalgamation of a brand’s content. Now we have a second coming of retail, the opportunity of re-imagination must be seized. As some might argue retail has become a slice of show business, the emphasis of experience creation cannot be forgotten.
Image source: https://www.bvkaplan.co