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Blog:  Is digital interaction the key to reviving the high street?

Blog: Is digital interaction the key to reviving the high street?

Interior Designer, Laura Baarda looks at the future of the high street and the role technology can play in creating a memorable customer experience through digital interaction. 

This week sees the reopening of non-essential shops and a welcome return for retailers and shoppers alike.  

During the pandemic, there has been a 42% rise in online sales. Many retailers have moved to a solely digital platform rather than bricks and mortar stores to reduce rent costs and staffing requirements.

However, there is value in physical stores. In 2019 it was predicted by technology consultancy, BJSS that a lot of digital brands would open bricks and mortar stores, as they predicted that a physical presence was where most of their business growth would come from. Even Amazon has opened a physical store!  

As we come out of lockdown, we are all craving normalcy and social interaction so will we find ourselves back on the high street?

Image: Amazon Store

To ensure the rise of the high street once again, we have to look at what are the consumers’ needs. Consumers are not looking for racks full of clothing or large fitting rooms anymore, shoppers now want an experience and a human connection to a brand, a safe space and social interaction (even if this is virtually for the time being). 

The rules connected to reducing the spread of coronavirus has in some way prepared retailers for changes. A lot of the basic necessities of the retail space have been closed like fitting rooms and make-up testing stations. The key for retailers is to use these restrictions as an opportunity to maximise the customer experience. 

This is where Augmented Reality comes in. Offering augmented reality for testing makeup colours or trying on clothes not only forces the customer to engage with the environment and the technology but brings a safer digital-centric edge to their experience. For example, rather than buying a top that has been tried on by ten different people before you buy it, you just scan the QR code enter the AR booth and try the clothes on virtually with no risk of contamination, as well as enhanced shopping experience by delivery to your door purchase button that stops the customers from having to lug around heavy shopping bags. What could be better?

Burberry opened a ‘social retail’ store in China this summer that focuses on customers interaction with the brand not only physically but through digital interaction with the use of QR codes and WeChat platforms.

Image: Burberry, China

Image: Burberry QR Shopping Experience

Image: Sephora Virtual Makeup Artist

Designers and brands have been forecasting the trends and needs of the new generation of shoppers and we know that they are looking for more than just a good product, but a brand that is sustainable, ethical and responsible for their products. Therefore, retail spaces should not only be cutting edge with technology, online shopping platforms and a brilliant shopping experience but they should see the value in their bricks and mortar flagship stores. A store is a 3D extension of a brand, this is the opportunity to convey a company’s ethos and story making the consumer buy into the brand rather than a product and this, in turn, builds loyalty.

In summary, the pandemic has brought about some positive changes and although stores may seem like a luxury expense at the moment, they can be mutually beneficial for your online sales and your brand in the long term when designed correctly. 

Digital interaction not only drives younger people to the high street by creating a seamless, safer and better shopping experience but not overpowering the need for social interaction that is gained from a bricks and mortar store.

 

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