I think we can all agree that the Retail Industry has had its fair share of negative press; decreasing footfall, increasing store closures, the death of bricks and mortar. Throw in a worldwide pandemic, where doors have been forced to close for months on end and then reopen for short periods, only to close once more, and the challenge of driving and securing traffic to stores has been made near impossible.

Now we have a date in the diary for the reopening of non-essential retail, and whilst we at O12 believe in the exciting opportunities for the re-imagining of the high street, there will still be some of us who may not feel as comfortable as others in returning to a retail environment. But here lies the opportunity of driving new means of connections with today’s consumer, building on the lessons learned over the last 12 months. Where some people may be cautious about visiting their favourite store, why not have their favourite store visit the people? Take the physical retail to the customer, where they can re-connect with brands by creating new and exciting experiences in familiar and comfortable settings.

Before the pandemic and Lockdown 3.0, the experience economy was on the rise – a trend that is only set to increase considering the lack of experiences we have all had to endure over the last year. We love retail in all shapes and forms, however, our passion lies within the retail environments that get people talking, that excite and stimulate individuals when they enter the space. In traditional retail spaces such as shopping centres or high street stores, spaces are slightly limited to change. Store windows or merchandising may change, or a new brand may enter once every six months, but without large investment the experience itself doesn’t change that much. There is of course opportunity to change this, but under the current circumstances, we need to focus on extraordinary ways to wow our consumers within the limitations of the pandemic. Outside, the environment is always changing: one day something’s there, the next day it isn’t, a continuous mixture of people and brands. This is where we see mobile retail coming into play.

The concept of mobile retail means no longer waiting for the customer to come to you: you can take your brand to the customer, and the experience can come in different shapes, sizes and varieties. This is about creating a concept that can tap into the experience economy of providing individuals with a sense of exclusivity. Something they don’t want to miss out on. Capturing consumers off guard with something out of the ordinary. The advantages of being ‘mobile’ mean you can take this experience and put it almost anywhere you wish, in neighbouring cities or countries. Mobile retail doesn’t have to come in its raw, product offering form either. It can be something that purely adds value to your customer, or by way of collaboration with other brands completely outside of your industry.

Here are some great examples of mobile retail.

Patagonia is an American designer of clothing and gear specific to outdoor sports such as surfing, skiing, climbing, etc. Patagonia are passionate about sustainability within the apparel industry, and decided to launch a Worn Wear Crew programme that is committed to keeping clothing (regardless of brand) in circulation by repairing, reusing and recycling non salvageable items. Creating a mobile repair shop that travels across Europe to top snow destinations, offering free repairs and providing knowledge on how to keep your gear in great condition. Due to its success, a few years later Patagonia came to the UK, this time targeting key surfing destinations, providing repairs to surfing gear at places such as Cornwall. A great example of mobile retail created purely for added value to their customers (and they had hot chocolate too!).

Not necessarily on wheels but still mobile retail, the Ugg FW20 Campaign was designed to be mobile so that it could travel between cities throughout Germany. Office Twelve provided a design concept that was made up of several components to launch UGG’s FW20 campaign. The concept was to appear, and is still appearing, in department stores throughout Germany. To enable the concept to travel, it was designed as a kit of parts, allowing its purpose and appearance not to change when it moved to the next location, and thus creating a holistic and immersive space built around the feeling of UGG.

The benefits of mobile retail speak volumes. There are significant cost savings compared to traditional bricks and mortar investments, not only on square meterage but down to inventory, purchasing of displays and overall overheads for physical space. Mobile retail also allows you to be more agile in testing – whether that’s the products, the offering or the place – before committing to something a little more permanent when you have the confidence that it works. We believe that mobile retail will provide unique opportunities for brands to evolve their brand that one step further.

By taking your brand to the people, you can be there when others aren’t, providing that competitive edge, added value and something completely unique. Let’s also not forget that this concept can provide a ‘element’ of free advertising; when seen, it sparks interest, word of mouth increases, and your brand reaps the rewards of earned media. The experience economy is set to boom, and we believe this is a great way to be part of it without the large investment.

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