Experience versus Ease?

Monday, 7. June 2010

Retail WeekRecent press reports show a continuing upwards trend towards shopping online and it’s producing some interesting responses from retailers. Competition in any market can change the shape of the offering, an increase in the number of online retailers has led to an improvement in the online shopping experience – but it’s also driving offline retailers to up their game.

To understand this, we need to think about the different types of shoppers and what they’re looking for. A lot of people these days are experience-hungry and time-poor, so when they need something the internet now presents a quick and convenient way to access what they need – improved broadband speeds and better deliveries mean that choosing a few items and sending back the ones we don’t need is a viable, and easy, option. So, unlike a few years ago, the Saturday shopping trip is no longer obligatory and when consumers do make the effort, they’re expecting something they can’t get from shopping online.

The add-value benefits offline retailers can give are tactile and experience based – the chance to look at and feel physical products, to meet friends and to engaage with surroundings.  If retailers can provide these opportunities, then consumers have a compelling reason to shop on the High Street and a great customer service experience and an engaging shop environment will only add to that – encouraging them to return and shop more.

Speakers at the Retail Week conference were speaking of high-end florists in Milan, who are selling from a shop fitted out to feel like being in a garden – and you wander around and pick the flowers you want to buy.  This is obviously experiential and, admittedly, very high end – but just like catwalk fashion, it will diffuse into the High Street in a less exaggerated form.  In fact, my favourite physical shop of the moment is Anthropologie, based on Regent Street in London - if you get the chance, go and have a look and be wowed by the innovative shopfit – ranging from a three-storey plant wall – watered with rain from the roof – through to recycled chandeliers and some really innovative product displays. If you do go – let me know what you think!

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