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THE SIMPLE TRUTH: THE COMPLEX NARRATIVE AROUND THE FUTURE OF RETAIL.

The future of retail… Where will it go? What will it be? These are the questions that cross the mind of anyone working within the retail industry. There is an abundance of negativity in the press… Plummeting profits, mass store closures, footfall on the largest decline ever recorded. What is the antidote? Is it clicks, bricks, e-tailing , a supercharged omnichannel, digital, online, offline, augmented reality?  

When trying to understand the current retail landscape, its challenges and what the future is, it’s likely to leave your head spinning and make you feel like turning out the lights and running for the hills.

The truth is, it’s tough out there: budgets are squeezed, and consumer behaviour is evolving second by second. Yes, some high street retailers are suffering from this, but we would argue that this is because they have failed to move with their customers’ needs and expectations. The real truth is that in the current climate, we need to work harder and smarter than ever before to win customers over and gain their loyalty.

Hidden behind the negative press are retailers bucking the trend, developers opening new shopping centres and outlet villages growing in popularity. Even eCommerce giants want a piece of the action, with brands such as Amazon, Glossier, Depop and Microsoft hitting the high street and seizing the opportunity to increase physical and emotional engagement with their brand fans.

At O12, we don’t like to make anything more complicated than it needs to be. It’s important to understand your brand, market and demographics, as it always has been. With everyone stating that data is the next big thing, we’ve ended up with endless amounts of it, but not knowing the objective behind collecting it. Not to mention a whole leap of other things that are deemed to be ‘the next big thing’. Here are our thoughts on retail and the future…

This is still as relevant today as it was in the past. Sure, we have seen technological and digital developments such as the iPhone and the internet, which have completely altered the customer journey. We’re not disregarding this, it’s a huge part of our lives and will continue to evolve how we interact and communicate with brands, but the basic principles of a shop remain.

We know that brands are broadening their horizons when it comes to retail and are looking to create more ‘experiential’ environments. There is a lot of innovation out there (read our last blog). But is this original thinking, or just values that have been lost in the noise of the high street and marketing jargon?

We would argue that Harry Gordon Selfridge’s quotes below still resonate today but are now being repackaged as ‘new ideas’.

“Treat [the customer] as guests when they come and when they go, whether or not they buy. Give them all that can be given fairly, on the principle that ‘to him that giveth shall be given’. Remember always that the recollection of quality remains long after the price is forgotten. Then your business will prosper by a natural process.”

“Excite the mind, and the hand will reach for the pocket.”

“Entertainment, customer service and value for money: the first will get them in, while the second and third will keep them in there.”

Looking at Selfridges more closely, fundamentally the experience has not changed, and they’re one of biggest high street successes.

We are not saying ‘remain the same and they’ll come’ as this is where some of the largest retailers have been left behind. Selfridges continue to excel because they understand both the importance of physical space, as well as the evolvement of that space – enabling them to create real and relevant connections between brand and consumer. They understand that consumers now search for a little more. Selfridges currently feature extra activities such as skate ramps, cinemas, pop-up shops, Schwarz piano lesson, services to design your own engagement ring with Vashi, and partnership with Quintessentially Concierge, all of which reflect the positioning of the Selfridges brand. They have also recently opened a second-hand clothing connection with Vestiaire Collective, understanding their customer and knowing that they are becoming more mindful than ever.

So, whilst the world has moved with the advent of the internet, smartphones, AR and VR, Selfridges remains true to Harry Gordon Selfridge’s philosophies. Therefore, we believe Selfridges remains a success through whichever medium they connect with their consumers.

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