From smart mirrors that help you choose the right outfit to pop-up stores in which customers can trade their personal data for T-shirts, retail innovation is helping the high street survive in the face of the online shopping threat. GlobalData analyst Andreas Olah picks out some of the most creative ways in which brands are enhancing shopping experiences
As the high street continues to face mounting problems with falling trade and store closures, retail innovation has never been more important.
Many people are happy to do their shopping online, where competition is more fierce, meaning retailers are in a race to introduce the best in-store shopping experiences.
Now, increasingly more shops are no longer just places for just shopping – also offering entertainment, food and other gizmos to attract new customers.
H&M has introduced a “talking mirror” to help shoppers choose the right outfit, while homeware store Roman and Williams allows customers to eat and drink from the plates and silverware they intend to buy before leaving the store.
Some might question whether investment in bricks and mortar is worth it given the raft of store closures in recent years but research by PwC shows 60% of Generation Z – the most digitally-driven of all age groups – prefers to shop in-store.
This new way of shopping has opened realms of possibilities and Andreas Olah, lead analyst in digital retail at data and analytics company GlobalData, shares some of the retailers who have enhanced the shopping experience.
He says: “There is a trend away from dedicated spaces for showrooms, collections and cafés in stores, and towards shared spaces that transform the overall look and feel of the store.
“The right concept needs to resonate well with the current or desired customer base, and encourages spending more time in the store – even if some visitors do not end up purchasing anything.
“Usually it is not worth to equip every store with the latest entertainment and practical features, but retailers usually choose a few flagship stores to showcase their latest innovations, which can then also drive sales across other branches and online.
“While some features are more design-driven, there is also a focus on the latest technologies if they can fit well into the overall concept without having to promote the technology for its own sake.
“Sensors, cameras, virtual and augmented reality, as well as artificial intelligence can play a key role in communicating with customers, collecting valuable data, and enhancing the overall experience.”
Retail innovation: The Data Dollar Store
The Data Dollar Store was a pop-up shop that was temporarily set up inside Old Street tube station in London.
It was launched by Russian cyber security company Kaspersky Lab as a marketing exercise to make people aware of the value of their personal information.
The store sold arty t-shirts, mugs and prints but to buy goods, customers had to hand over their personal data as currency.
This meant the customers had to give the company some images from their camera roll, text messages, email conversations and WhatsApp messages.
While it was a PR stunt, similar data-focused stores could emerge for commercial purposes in the future.
Retail innovation: Bandier
Sticking to what it knows best, the fitness apparel retailer has created a store that looks like a gym and features a health-focused café.
Customers can run on treadmills while trying out the latest running gear, then take a shower and put on moisturising face masks.
The idea is to create a fun space that attracts a stylish fitness-mad crowd that is also endorsed by various celebrities to encourage customers to buy not only products, but a certain lifestyle.
Retail innovation: H&M
The Swedish fashion giant has introduced “smart mirrors” to many of its flagship stores.
Through voice and facial recognition technology, customers can use voice commands to take pictures in their choice of outfits that can be downloaded to mobile phones, and it also gives out shopping tips.
It provides customers with various outfit suggestions, which can then be ordered directly from the online shop using a QR code.
Customers can also earn discounts by uploading selfies to Facebook and subscribing to a newsletter.
The mirrors were created by Microsoft along with Swedish digital agencies Visual Art and Ombori.
Feedback has been positive, with 86% of customers who took a picture also scanning a QR code, while 10% also registered for the newsletter.
Retail innovation: Toms
California-based shoe brand Toms has expanded into the coffee business and changed some of its stores into coffee shops that also sell shoes.
Customers can walk into the coffee shop area to order a drink using its own coffee brand Toms Roasting – which launched in 2014 – and then proceed to scan through shoe collections if they wish.
Toms also offers free Wi-Fi available in a garden area, with the relaxed environment in the combined spaces now visited by coffee shop customers and shoe shoppers alike.
It also encourages the hip crowd that come in for cold brews to spontaneously pick up some sneakers on the way out.
The shoemaker is owned by Blake Mycoskie, who launched the company in 2006 after selling his online driver education company for $500,000 (£380,000).
By 2011, more than 500 retailers stocked Toms shoes globally and it has continuously been expanding since.
It now has an eyewear and bags line, with 2017 sales valued at $625m (£475m).
Retail innovation: Roman and Williams
The homeware store has a mixed concept for its flagship store in New York City.
It currently features elements of a design store, café and flower shop, and is filled with Roman and Williams furniture, lighting and other designs.
Customers can buy tableware straight after eating from it and relax anywhere in the store while sipping lattes from glasses they may later choose to take home – giving them the chance to try before they buy.
By encouraging shoppers to spend more time in-store, it also allows them to discover the various designs around the space as everything can be bought.
Retail innovation: Olympus Perspective Playground
The camera shop operates pop-up stores that move around the world.
The stores feature an art and photography installation, where customers can play around with cameras.
It gives customers the freedom to take images in store and then take the storage card with all their pictures home – without the pressure to buy a camera.
The purpose of this is to allow people who have never owned a high-spec camera to consider it by experiencing how they work.