Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Seen Displays - What Does the Future Look Like for Retail?

Associations, Award Shows and Festivals
London, UK
Katie Mitchell, MD, Seen Displays, on the retail predictions that you need to know

If Covid has taught us anything it would be that yes, we can ‘survive’ by working remotely, we can still communicate with friends and family via video calls, but we are also craving the missing ingredients of surprise, delight and full immersion in a place or experience. With a light at the end of the tunnel for life as we know it in lockdown, here are my top retail predictions you need to know.

Physical Stores Will Be Back

The last year has seen some of the most turbulent outcomes for physical retail, most specifically the traditional high street store. With closures and household names, for example Topshop and Debenhams, being taken under a digital wing, the conversation has been around the death of the high street and demise of in-person purchases.

You can’t avoid the fact that Covid-19 has accelerated some of the changes we have seen of late, with a lot of store closures and brands downscaling their physical existence. That said, there will always be the need for physical spaces. These physical spaces will allow brands and brand stories to thrive.

We are emotionally lead humans, with a curious drive to explore, educate ourselves and immerse ourselves in what we love and enjoy. Brands that continue to create highly immersive spaces that are seamless in their omni-channel journey will provide customers with an experience that is not only convenient, but one that caters to their need for high-touch, sensorial spaces. Across the board, we will start to see fewer stores and a reduction in fleet size from our high-street favourites, but the stores that will exist will be high impact, consumer lead, experiential hubs. We have already seen this with the likes of Zara, who closed up to 1200 smaller stores over the summer of 2020, with the remaining stores offering so much more than a space to buy. These brand hubs will not only provide exceptional personal service but click and collect facilities and contactless payments.

Make it Personal

Community lead brands require clever strategies and invested systems that allow for a truly personalised experience. With physical retail no longer being centred around destination shopping or relying on customers filtering their collections independently, the need for brands to offer their customers unique and empathic services has risen in recent years.

This won’t just be the case for suggesting relevant products but also services and content that will strengthen consumer relationships with a brand. Many brands are amplifying their services by investing in their employees and ensuring they are authentically living and breathing the DNA of the brands they are representing. The idea here being that if your staff are brand advocates, they will be able to serve your consumers confidently and seamlessly.

It’s no surprise that tech enablers will also play a starring role in creating amplified personalisation too, such as body scanning, which is set to deliver tailored apparel and accurate sizing suggestions.

This is tech that we are not just seeing with smaller brands but also with big players such as Zalando, who have recently purchased the technology with an aim to roll it out to their markets in the near future. Not just benefiting the online platform, the information and sizing collected virtually, will be available to instore sales associates so preferences and products can be ready and shared when a consumer walks in the store. This level of service will be especially critical within the beauty industry, with a lot of clever technology already becoming commonly available to beauty consumers. Face scanners and AR experiences are being used by brands in order to suggest relevant skin care products and services, with even Boots offering personalised skin analysis sessions.

The bottom line is that customer’s expectations of the store are growing and brands that cater for the need for hyper personalisation, will win.

Experiential Retail

With 2020 truly making a mark in the sand for the future of retail, the repercussions of the pandemic will be felt for years to come. As well as the end of some brands as we know them, we are also experiencing the introduction of digital brands showing up physically in order to amplify human connectivity. We worked with youth lifestyle brand, Nicce, to open their first standalone physical space and refresh their existing, physical showroom in the peak of the pandemic. The showroom was not only designed to showcase the up-and-coming collections, but it also came complete with a fully functioning ‘bar’ and a music recording studio. A perfect example of creating a space that encourages community and responds to the brands music driven ethos.

Fast forward five years and ‘experience’ will be amplified even more so. We will see an enticing blend of retail alongside an even richer selection of activations. Shopping malls and department stores will offer a platform for dining, music and other entertainment outlets, but in addition to this we will see less expected partnerships too.

Brand collaborations will lead the way in providing an experience that consumers cannot find anywhere else. Think spas, clothing, hairdressers and gaming all under one roof, for a one stop, experiential hub, traditionally found at one-off events. Physical stores will provide the space for retailers to come alive with a strategy based on theatre. You would visit these spaces and be encouraged to stay for a lengthened period of time, enjoying a seamless journey of multiple activations in one place.

It’s an exciting time for retailers and brands. A time that if navigated correctly will provide the opportunity to grow and thrive, even after the recent economic struggle we have experienced. By putting your audience first and understanding them as people as well as consumers, brands can create a space that goes beyond their current expectations, capture their attention and strengthen relationships within the physical retail space.

Katie Mitchell, MD, Seen Displays

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