High Street of the Future: How is Tech is Changing Retail Spaces?
From extreme personalisation to building meaningful connections, smart brands are putting the customer first in a whole new way. Retail expert and Founder of Insider Trends Cate Trotter fills us in!
What are the most important trends you are seeing in the world of retail?
Brands are putting the customer first in a whole new way.
One facet of this is extreme personalisation. As well as giving customers the ability to tweak products as much or as little as they want, smart brands are personalising the shopping experience across all channels: Burberry staff tailor their conversations to each specific customer based on past purchases; Enclothed sends a personalised clothing selection to each of its customers every month; digital billboards can adapt themselves according to the people looking at them. When interactions are tailored, they become more useful and attract more attention from customers who are, as a result, more likely to buy.
There’s also a new focus on truly serving the customer and building meaningful connections. Sexy marketing campaigns have less sway and great customer experiences are driving more sales than ever. It's less about flash sales and loyalty points, and more about useful innovations like mobile pre-ordering.
Smart brands are giving the customer more control than ever, inviting them to co-design products and events. The future of retail isn't all about passive consumption. It's also about connecting with customers, delivering a new type of brand experience and a new type of dialogue. There are some exciting times ahead.
What examples of the most future-focused retail spaces have you seen recently?
Made.com’s furniture showroom is a great example of technology that increases efficiency and sales. Every product in the showroom has an NFC chip. Customers can use an NFC-enabled tablet (provided by the store) to swipe these chips and learn more about each item. They can save their favourites to a wishlist, which they can email to themselves.
It's great because it works every time – still a rare occurrence in the world of retail tech! And there are huge benefits to the brand's bottom line. Use of the tablet can increase customer spend by around 4 times.
Cate remains on top of the latest retail trends
Argos is a great example of a large company that’s managed to innovate and change its fortunes. The most important changes have been in the back end. It's unified its inventory, meaning customers can go online and check stock in their local store: something that is actually very sophisticated and difficult to do, and they’ve managed to do it brilliantly. What’s going on behind the scenes has changed the customer experience.
In contrast, the New Stand in New York is a great example of micro-retail. It's turned a tiny subway retail space into a modern convenience store. The store works in conjunction with a free app, which offers articles and product recommendations. A customer can read about newly launched headphones in the app, press a button to buy them, and then pick them up from the store the next day on their way to work. The New Stand has really rethought what a retailer can be. They understand that the physical space can be tiny if they can offer a wide range of items digitally.
What do you imagine the high street will look like in the future?
The high street won't die, but it will be different. Brands will always benefit from a physical presence because this gives them an edge in terms of marketing, educating and connecting with customers. It’ll also remain a highly convenient channel for last minute purchases.
A varied & ever-changing high-street: more pop-ups?
I think the high street will be more flexible and interesting than it is now. Any high street that is a cookie-cutter version of any other won't do well. There will need to be more variety to keep people interested. The simplest way to do this is to increase the number of pop-ups, to change the high street's feel every month. It means that people will discover something new every time they go out, so they keep going back.
What’s next for you?
We already offer retail safaris in New York and London. We’re working on having tours live in Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam by the end of the year.
I’m also speaking further afield – this year, I'm presenting in America, France, Germany, Estonia and Norway. I try to explore each city I speak in, so I can share my scouting insights with future audiences. I love it!