Touch sensations are not just part of the whole retail interaction, they should also improve a retail strategy.
We all recognise there is a desire for retailers to invest in more digitisation and tech. Whilst it champions an innovative approach, the product will always be the hero.
The reason people shop is to see and touch and then take something home.
A recent study highlighted the importance to see, touch and feel products as well as take away. These are the most popular reasons why people choose to shop in store compared to online purchases.
Retail Dive’s Consumer Survey asked 1,425 shoppers why they select a shop over a website.
62% of consumers want to pick up, hold, feel it and have some form of ownership. 49% of shoppers stated that they can ‘take items home immediately.’ The sense of gratification is clear, rather than waiting for next day delivery, or looking patiently out of a window for a delivery driver to arrive.
It is these figures that highlight the importance for retailers to create experiences that align with their product. Alignment is key, rather than the slant for pure theatre that does not draw people to purchase or at least lean further in to find out more about a product.
The biggest challenge for retailers is to connect the online and in-store customer experience. If touch, feel and takeaway are all vital, there has to be congruence. For instance, if a customer likes what they see online, but cannot see it in the store, or it performs differently from expectations derived online, then it is more likely for a company to lose a sale but also perhaps plant a seed of miss-trust in the brand. The point from this scenario is that when a retailer has the opportunity to connect and invite customers to see for themselves, this creates a far healthier proposition.
In a recent Essential Retail article by Paul Lewis, senior director of marketing at VoucherCodes, highlights, “We are facing a huge transformation of the retail landscape. Whilst yes, it is digital first, this only looks to benefit the bricks and mortar store.”
A brand champion of this approach in recent years has been made.com. Whilst pioneering online furniture sales, the company recognised the need to provide an outlet for consumers to trial first, particularly when considering purchasing high ticket items where comfort and feel are critical factors, such as a sofa. Without this for some, virtual world only becomes a barrier to purchase. What the company decided to do was open three showrooms in key country hubs such as, London, Yorkshire and Liverpool and Paris with a highly curated and design led showcase of their products. Loaf have made the same move with their shacks positioned in Battersea, Notting Hill and Spitalfields. These are destination stores, ‘slow rooms not show rooms’ say Loaf, complete with old School ice cream parlour in the Battersea branch.
From a Resolution Interiors perspective, interaction, product elevation, accessibility and engaging all the senses are key elements within every project.
For instance, working with tile manufacturer and supplier, Original Style, a physical mood board was created to make the whole decision process tactile. From a design perspective, what has to be easy for the consumer, has to be easy for the client.
This has been nominated for a Design Excellence Award in the 2017 Retail Week Interiors Awards. No-one feels confident choosing tiles from a picture on a screen, or wants to pull it out of a stack in-store, when you can feel the materials and see the nuances of all the colour tints the experience changes.
This emphasis of changing an experience from the purely virtual to tangible is perfectly demonstrated by children’s retailer, Great Little Trading Company (GLTC).
We helped them to embody the brand and online experience within their first destination store. Consistency of look and feel, had to be true to both channels. GLTC owners had a vision to build the GLTC home to inspire and build a community, whilst on the other hand actively encouraging customers to do the ‘wobble’ test on bunk beds and bedroom furniture. Their quality British designed products are built to endure the ravages of little people. Today John Lewis stock GLTC products, presenting opportunity for consumers to get more intimate with their products more regularly.
The future for retail is moving from simple interaction with staff to a deeper engagement with a team of personal concierges.
This is what Virgin Holidays provide where customers can touch an intangible experience. People have a taste and feel for a holiday before it has actually happened. From the first class flight experience, to the bar, everything is centered on being in the moment to help make the decision an easy one.
These examples all represent a retail strategy to convert someone with an intention to make a commitment that they may not be able to do online.
Whilst retailers drive ahead with technology to solve problems and engage consumers, we must surely remember that creating, ‘I must have it’ desire for a product must not be inadvertently over-shadowed by retail theatre. Perhaps sometimes it is better to put the brakes on and recognise the fundamentals will always be the same, to sell a product to an audience who want to connect.
After all, it is the human experience that has always connected us to the in-store environment. A templated experience via a screen will not accentuate an emotional connection with a retailer.