The transformation of brick-and-mortar shops into places of discovery is a development that will determine the success of a brand in the long term. This is one thing that experts agree on. If the retail industry succeeds in establishing stores as leisure venues and meeting places for like-minded individuals, revenue and market value can be increased with lasting effect.


Experiences should entice people into shops and the ecosystem of a company and create a community. Brands can develop a direct relationship with consumers through this. After all, there is no added value if consumers use a brand’s product every day but the company has no information about these customers. It has to position itself in such a way that it can reach its customers, get in touch with them and create experiences for them. Obtaining data is a must to influence the customer journey and create digital touch points.


An impressive example: Nestlé, owner of the pet brand Purina, wanted data about as many people as possible in the USA who had acquired puppies during the pandemic. The company launched an experience marketplace where people could find puppy trainers and take part in courses via Zoom. The platform was successful and Nestlé passed on the money earned to the traders directly. After all, establishing this community and the data acquired through this was worth much more than the attempt to monetise this marketplace.


Even though a lot is being carried out online and digitally, it doesn’t mean that physical stores are disappearing – though they are changing. Some purely online brands are even opening physical sites. This is because the probability that consumers will buy something is greater if they can experience products and a brand. People want to feel, see, smell, taste, try on and try out things. They want to experience them with all of their senses.


The increasing development of the retail sector into a “house of friends” is also becoming evident in terms of shop architecture. “Stationary retail must be able to do more than just sell! To be relevant in the future, physical retail must offer more than a string of shelves with products. The brand/store must tell its own honest and genuine story. And this story must be made tangible. Only when you are real do customers become guests, and then also real friends. For us, it is important to create real spaces for people where they feel comfortable, which invite them to linger and thus become a place where people like to meet”,


says Christian Zorn from Konrad Koblauch GmbH. One example of this is Gigasport in Graz. The multi-storey shop features a bouldering wall and a small cinema with an open design. In a niche with a large panoramic window there is a stylised hut. In winter, in line with the ski season, it boasts firewood, a stove and fur; in summer, hammocks and cork mats convey tropical flair and create a link to the range of swimming and beach products.


Mert Damlapinar, Director of E-Commerce Strategic Insights and Tech Products at L’Oréal, predicts three elements for future in-presence stores:

  • Interactive displays. Some 15 per cent of future retail stores will consist of shop aisles, as we currently know them, but featuring interactive, well-prepared, high-resolution displays instead of physical products. The product catalogue will be optimised in line with the customer’s preferences if these are already entered in the system.
  • Fulfilment centres. 35 per cent of the shop will serve to process online orders – a kind of micro-fulfilment centre.
  • And a good half will be devoted to experiences – an environment featuring recreation areas and store-in-store experiences. “This will be the platform for developing experiences, where we will be able to enhance the engagement and lifetime value of customers and increase brand loyalty. Customers can then buy the product wherever they want, as they see no difference between sales channels as we do. It doesn’t matter to them whether the product is offered online, offline or in Web3; they will buy it if the experience is worthwhile enough.”


These are all interesting developments, which many brands have already succeeded in partially implementing. By contrast, the increasing digitalisation of shopping experiences and the creation of digital touch points based on sound and well-managed customer data certainly poses a big challenge for brick-and-mortar retail in the next few years. Nevertheless, anyone who wants to remain competitive must tackle these tasks.


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