Why the high street is the new media channel

Why the high street is the new media channel

With retailers under immense pressure, it is imperative stores can be places to spend quality time, and not just money. So get Instagram ready, writes Heather Dansie

Headlines this month saw high street brand Forever 21 announce 350 store closures across the globe. According to press, Forever 21 has “aged and is now outflanked on sustainability, fast-fashion and relevance”. Whereas it used to be less about the experience, more about the product, it’s now the opposite as all the shopping you can do faster and cheaper online.

It’s not enough these days to have a shop with products on offer. The consumer is actively seeking experiences, especially when they can get Instagrammable content. So what are you, the brand, providing?

If small is more convenient than big, and in terms of sustainability, less can actually be more, what hasn’t changed? Well we still want to shop in beautiful places amongst beautiful people. A store should be a place to inspire people to lead better lives and be the best version of themselves.

Home of the experts

As retailers face ever-growing pressure from global operation forces and online competition, many retail experts believe it is now unforgivable for retailers to build dull stores which no one wants to visit. The only means to override a shopper’s preference for something cheap and something fast is to make them love the experience of visiting a store.

Most of our time shopping isn’t spent buying, but rather deciding what to buy. Starcom data proves this is the case when it comes to online web searches, with a higher proportion of google searches being defined under the stages of exploring the brand than for purchase. The same is true in shops. Whether it is to find functional advice, a chance to properly review options up close, to browse and be inspired, people feel reassured when they visit stores. It is the place to demonstrate a brand’s expertise in their category.

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All the #flowerfriday feels! How fun are these fun & colourful installations at #the7to lining the steps to @kleinfeldcanada ???? ▪▪▪ This weekend #gtabrides get to discover dream dresses, skip through petal paths, shop our accessory trunk show {AND} top it all off with the perfect selfie spot??♡♡♡ ▪▪▪ ?Our mini trunk show is in store thru Sunday with @sophiatolli wedding gowns! ▪▪▪ Watch our stories to see the other fun stuff we discovered on the way to Kleinfeld last night!? ▪▪▪ #fridayfun #fridayfeels #flowerinstallation #instagramadorable . . . . . #flowerfulfriday #selfiespot #happyplaces #installationart #weddingshopping #designisinthedetails #engagedtothedetails #livethelittlethings #the6ix #blogto #torontolife #gtabrides #torontowedding #kleinfeld #weddingtrunkshow #bridaltrunkshow #2019wedding #wedmin #ido2019 #engagedlife #justsaidyes #gettingmarriedthisyear #misstomrs2019 #bridalstyling

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In 2019 if your retail experience is not worth putting on Instagram then it isn’t good enough. Instagram is having a profound effect on how we view all our public spaces. Architects, town planners, designers and indeed media brands, are curating not just for the physical experience, but ‘the gram’ shot.

Restaurants have catered to the need for aesthetics along with taste for some time now, and increasingly stores, such as Primark in Birmingham, and Macy’s new retail concept called ‘Story’, which launched in April 2019, are purposefully designed to be Instagram friendly.

Because when it comes to sharing our best moments on social media, humble brags about the stuff we’ve bought must be wrapped up in the humble brags about our experiences, particularly the wonderful experiences we witness other people putting on. We are British after all and no one likes a show off…

Growth in service retailing

As retailers see their square footage as a space rather than a store, a place to be talked about rather than just a destination to collect things, it should be no surprise, that the growth of retail lies in service retailing.

The Local Data Company analyses store openings and closures across Great Britain, and in 2018 the rising categories weren’t selling products that lasted, but rather the intangibles of beauty and food. Barbers grew by +813 units, beauty salons by +495 units. Restaurants and bars by +218units and café and tearooms by +214units.

Experian data echoes this trend, noting in their analysis of spending in the UK, that retail spending is to grow only by 1.7% in 2019 compared to lifestyle spending which is to grow by 3.1% and holidays by 4%.

This evidence is backed up by consumers themselves; Euromonitor in 2019 found that 40% of global consumers say they prefer buying experiences rather than goods and products.

A place to spend time, not just money

The experience economy is not a new idea to marketers, but few retailers are doing this well. Trend Insider’s advice to retailers is to think less ‘about the store’ and instead ‘focus on the space’. What we have, is increasingly less self-defining than what we do. Taking photos of what we have just bought is gauche. Taking photos of great experiences we are having is not. Therefore, retail acts as an alternative to websites by offering people their space to self-actualise.

Many marketers may continue to be wary of the risks and costs involved at attempting to challenge the status quo, to do something different. Audience and cultural understanding, is therefore fundamental, as is attracting the right designers to visualise new concepts and bring elements of the brand to life via experiences.

Building exclusivity and scarcity into a store taps into our most primeval desires – that of status. Many successful retailers are aware that by focusing on the product second and the experience first, they are able to win with customers. After all this is the essence of retail therapy. Shopping that makes people feel good, proud and fulfilled in themselves.

At Starcom, our advice to brands would be; be the expert. Don’t just offer the product, offer an exciting and enjoyable experience the shopper wouldn’t get without entering the physical store. Have a fancy wall, or offer some type of entertainment, perhaps an immersive sensory experience like Topshop just did. What would a shopper want to do with your product? Entice shoppers in with live moments such as the opportunity for a ‘gram’ pic.

And finally, offer exclusivity, something streetwear brand Supreme has managed to do exceedingly well by building hype around their product drops, and suitcase manufacturer – Rimowa – managed to do by selling out of their new collection in just 16 seconds.

Heather Dansie is head of insights at Starcom

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