Retail innovation, not only is rearranging new distribution and sales models but is also transforming physical stores, which have long struggled to remain operational after the advent of the digital age and offer an interesting experience for customers.
Creating one’s personalized bicycle, sweater or bag online and then completing the purchase in store, exploring assortments on the Internet but staying inside the store, playing basketball inside a store that sells shoes.
These are now overt signs that denote not only an operational change of the “classic store” but express new needs and concepts that are more functional to demand. Indeed, experiencing designer products in an apartment-showroom, being greeted by salespeople ready to use all the technologies at their disposal, or even returning a purchased book if one is not satisfied with the reading, are some of the innovative proposals coming from the world of “physical” retail. A world that has long been under pressure from the growing competition from e-commerce and for which innovation is increasingly becoming a necessity.
Retailing can take place through various channels: physical stores, online stores (e-commerce) or through home delivery (home delivery). For several years, physical stores have been in crisis. The acceleration of e-commerce caused by the Covid19 emergency has dealt a heavy blow to this industry.
Are we heading toward the inexorable decline of physical retail? Those who have had a chance to analyze the changes in recent years know that this question has already emerged, as has the answer: physical retail is not dead, if anything, a certain way of offering it has waned. Indeed, physical stores have peculiarities, which are necessary for the contemporary consumer and complementary to the e-commerce channel. Therefore, a model has developed that focuses on the 360-degree integration of physical and digital commerce.
Retail innovation should not only be applied online, but also in physical stores, through the use of innovative technologies such as:
- data collection tools and CRM (customer relationship management) systems;
- tools for monitoring customers’ purchase history;
- physical in-store touch point devices.
Retail is an evolving world that will not have to fear the development of online transactions if, however, it can renew itself and make itself complementary and distinctive from the online proposition, and this will be possible precisely with the help of new technologies and new business methods. Digital transformation has significantly affected an area that for centuries had been considered “a-technological,” because it was essentially based on meetings and agreements between people within physical spaces. The new retail has contributed to the crisis of physical stores, but it is also providing a number of opportunities for retailers. Opportunities that have various names: multichannel, cross-channel, omnichannel, open innovation, retail.40, logistics 4.0, emotional retail, and more. Each of these terms brings with it one or more innovative technology-related concepts. The pandemic that began in 2020, with its strong push for digitization, has further highlighted the now indispensable role of technology for the retail of the future. No matter whether remote or in-person, consumers want to talk, to have a living relationship with brands, and to be treated as people rather than mere users.
In response to the desire to be recognized, this is the emerging Live Commerce. To keep the attention of potential customers high, it is necessary to invest in content that is up-todate and original. Let us also not forget that the value of the brand/distributive brand also depends on its ability to be perceived as environmentally friendly, sensitive to issues of inclusiveness, and able to play an active role in combating inequalities in society. The key words in being “fair” are found in the concepts of ethicality, sustainability, inclusiveness and fair working conditions.
The goal of the physical store is to succeed in not losing both regular customers and new potential customers. How can this goal be achieved? Simply by having an online presence, integrating technology within the physical store, creating an e-commerce site, using social media and as many digital platforms/tools as possible that can come in handy.
The most prominent trends in recent years have produced varied and innovative solutions such as:
CUSTOMIZATION — which aims to pander to customer tastes and desires by creating product/service mixes directly in-store increasing choice.
360° SERVICE — “total service” is a trend that is highly appreciated by the customer public who feel more assisted, protected, safe.
GREENTAILING — the store designed according to the rules of sustainability and environmental protection becomes a moral and social duty for the most qualified signs.
TRY BEFORE BUY — allows customers to reduce their uncertainties and hesitations, regarding the size, functionality and performance of the products they are about to buy.
SPACE FOR CULTURE — iconic images and quotes from artists and creative people are increasingly being recalled at the point of sale, this is to further ennoble the reason why of the sign or to create something “unique” if it is a flagship-store.
FLEXIBLE ASSORTMENT — That is, the possibility for the customer to also be able to order items and products that are not in the canonical assortment. Or have a verticality of offerings that are very widespread and diversified across even very different sectors. Like some dealerships that internally have started selling vacation packages to be enjoyed with the newly purchased car.
CROSS CANALITY — understood as maximum and efficient integration between off-line and on-line purchasing, consultation and information on brands, products and services.
HUMAN TECH — technology as a consumer “facilitator” in the purchasing stages. More information, possibility of activating promotions, consulting on-site reviews just some of the possibilities offered by new point-of-sale concepts.
LIQUID RETAIL — making it possible to move from the mere supply function of the point of sale, to a place for tourist visits, a cultural space and so on to increase the passage of visitors and potential customers.
EMOTIONAL RETAIL — understood as a place of experience in which to be amazed, indulging in the wonder of events, special effects, entertainment and relaxation, and not least the personal relationships that can result by visiting. A multisensory journey that totally transforms the shopping process into a great emotion.
EXPLICIT PARTNERSHIPS — aimed at increasing the image, the level of store quality, services and assortment of offerings.
ACTIVE STORE — outlets made to stimulate interaction with the customer as an active part of the sales process and not a passive element to be captured. He has the opportunity to ask, leave information, create greater loyalty and thus establish a higher rate of trust with the sign that gratifies him in his active and pro-active attitude.
The ‘Future of Retail’ study analyzed the changes taking place in the Retail sector.
New business models, cost and supply chain efficiencies, and a purpose to share with consumers are the cornerstones on which to base change. Change that will have to be transversal, integrating all levels of business. Companies will have to invest decisively in digital transformation and in building a corporate culture increasingly driven by a ‘Connected Enterprise’ logic. This to make physical signs not only more attractive to consumers but also to the brands of products that will be marketed within them, increasing productivity and the opportunity to bill for large market shares.
Edited by reFRAME Editorial Staff