Reinvigorating physical retail through tech and co-operation

Journey through any prime retail location and you’ll find yourself on the frontline of an experiential onslaught targeting your time, spend and Instagram feed.

Recently adidas launched a gigantic store on London’s Oxford Street, bristling with immersive and interactive tech. L’Occitane en Provence has created a series of concept stores in major cities, each designed to caress your senses and get you posting.

Flagship malls around the world are trimming the allocation of space for retail in favour of footfall-drawing experiences such as cinemas, destination food courts or even theme parks and wildlife gardens.

The principle of experiential retail has been around since Harry Gordon Selfridge opened his eponymous store in 1909. Selfridge’s innovations – welcoming stores, accessible merchandise interspersed with cafés, spectacular displays and live events – are a cultural and social phenomenon that has stood the test of time.

According to PSFK, a company that tracks consumer trends, 55 per cent of retail executives will make in-store experience their second-largest area of investment by 2020. So will doubling down on “retailtainment” be the solution for an embattled industry?

Despite the hype about online shopping, there’s no denying that consumers continue to prefer the experience of shopping in stores. Online shopping captures only a fraction of spend for fashion: less than 20 per cent in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, and just 10 per cent in the US, the Department of Commerce says.

Dropit gathers and groups all the bags, either for collection on-site or into a single, insured delivery to a home or hotel

The real impact has been on consumer expectations. All of us now expect immediacy, convenience and flexibility, no matter what the channel. The entire industry is struggling to keep pace sustainably with this fundamental shift.

A wave of store openings by online-first brands, such as Bonobos and Warby Parker, hints at the way forward. These retailers have integrated attributes of physical stores into a digital business model. Traditional bricks-and-mortar stores and landlords can do the same, using technology to leverage investments in experiential retail and the inherent features of physical shopping environments like tactility, immediacy, community and proximity to places people inhabit or congregate.

Leading mall owners, including Simon Property Group and Brookfield Properties in America, and Realm in the UK, are taking this approach by partnering with Dropit, a tech company that combines app-enabled hands-free shopping with store-to-door delivery.

Dropit operates a digital hands-free shopping network spanning hundreds of stores at prime retail locations worldwide. Available in London, Brussels and throughout Las Vegas, Dropit is expanding to dozens more locations during 2020. The experience is new for most consumers, but Dropit makes the service as easy and familiar as hailing an Uber. Shoppers shop in-store as usual, then use the Dropit app or in-store device to deposit their bags securely at each store they visit. Dropit gathers and groups all the bags, either for collection on-site or into a single, insured delivery to a home or hotel.

Hands-free shopping makes it easier to blend a trip to the shops with other activities, whether that means making a day of it, dashing to buy a gift between meetings or before an evening out. By joining the Dropit network, malls and retailers become part of a joined-up approach to convenience and experience that is relevant to consumers on their own terms.

This ingenious yet simple enhancement to a customer’s day delivers measurable gains in conversion and spend. Dropit users have a propensity to buy and spend 4.5 times more than the average shopper. They also spend longer on-site and derive more enjoyment from non-retail attractions.

Dropit has benefits that extend beyond the typical retail metrics. By digitising the customer journey, the company is opening a new seam of data about consumer behaviour, bringing online-style insights to the offline world.

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