We read countless articles remarking on the fact that technology will be the future of retail, particularly within store environments. However, during this supposed digital revolution, I have witnessed many digital installations in retail which are either faulty, switched off, or lack-lustre when the brand or retailer responsible hasn’t ensured that the content is consistently relevant.
There are of course, many occasions where digital integration has been a thing of beauty, but they often seem to be the brands with larger marketing budgets and the back office technical network to make it what it should be. But if we are talking about the vast majority, there is some catching up to do.
Our Retail Safari
Earlier this year, a team from D4R were lucky enough to spend some time with one of our key clients to carry out a retail safari across London and Paris – just 48 hours to explore everything from branded space to digital integration. The main objective of this marathon trip was to experience these retail spaces first-hand, assessing how our client stood up against other brands and generally explore what latest the installations had to offer.
At the end of each day, we debated the highs and lows, particularly focusing on what was hot in terms of digital retail. Personally, I was staggered by the sheer lack of well-integrated digital media that I had been expecting to have performed well, based on research prior to the safari.
The Real Stars
In fact, the real stars of the show were those environments which had concentrated on beautifully designed retail interiors, clever branding and storytelling, disruptive uses of VM and experiential moments; putting these over technology when it came to order of importance.
Where we found the odd example of digital, it was often purely a screen on the wall – sometimes highlighting digital content, sometimes a black screen which had clearly been forgotten about.
So, Hi Tech or Bye Tech?
My thoughts above lead me to the conclusion that well-crafted interior retail design and one-to-one consumer engagement will always be top of the list when it comes to successful store design. Maybe it means a greater investment in interior design rather than digital content or hardware, but this quality design will be a tangible asset that will stand the test of time in retail. After all, there will always be a need a physical store environment, won't there? We open up the floor to hear what you think on this…
Whilst I appreciate the digital era is providing much food for thought and digital integration does have a huge role to play in stores which implement this technology seamlessly, there are benefits to taking a step back and assessing how the store environment speaks to society. Yes, we’ll share photographs on Instagram and tweet about our favourite new store, but when we’re actually in the store, we’re there for more than a lack-lustre screen – we want real human experiences, not just virtual ones!
So, maybe not bye tech altogether, but we certainly have more to think about within this time of retail renaissance.