The second experiment we’re undertaking here is one around just how agile physical retail can be. One of the biggest challenges for brands thinking about their direct retail channels is commitment; leases of 10 years or more with upward rent and rate reviews, high staff commitment costs, big CAPEX spends for builds and centralised teams, and so on.
At the same time, the process for retailing is really cumbersome, with projects often taking six months or more to get off the ground.
We challenge that view.
In a digitised, disruptive world, it just cannot be the way to “do” physical retail.
For this experience store, we signed a lease for the space on a Monday afternoon at 4pm, and we opened the doors for trade on the Thursday.
We’re interested in constructing modular, agile retail experiences that turn the retail project plan on its head – how quickly can we source locations, agree terms, and open for trade?
In the same vein, we’re experimenting with how much data we can collect, analyse and adapt to in real-time – what are customers saying about the store environment, how is our VM working, which prices and promotions strategies are the most effective, how do our staff feel. We’re able to make changes and adaptations on a daily basis to get the maximum benefit from trading here.
This, we think, is the key way to allow brands and retailers to react with maximum speed – and commercial security – to opportunities as they open up, or to pivot if things need adjusting.
Online and Offline:
Finally – we’re experimenting with what it takes to be truly omnichannel. I do not mean that from a brand’s perspective – we’re not interested in having a shiny website, or a chat bot, or WhatsApp shopping, for the sake of it. We are interested in finding out what a consumer really cares about and tailoring the journey to their wants and needs.
This retail experience exists because we’re a complex product; we’re helping people understand a relatively new sector, often exploring complex needs with them, and providing support and advice. We also do know that our physical experiences convert customers incredibly well – over 80% of people that walk through our doors buy something from us, compared to less than 2% of customers who discover us online.
What we’re trying to understand here is what the path to omni-channel purchasing is; we know that in the future, customers who understand the product and brand may well buy online from us, and we need solutions that make that a simple, efficient and seamless experience.
What we can learn from our physical experience is how long, how many touch points that journey might take; where we need to provide in-person services to some people, and where the physicality of retailing sits within our overall channel strategy, for example in helping support new product launches, seasonal changes or driving awareness in specific areas.
We’re a little too early to have expected to see significant repeat customs on our digital platforms yet, so we’ll have to update you on that in the coming weeks!