The value of offline experiences in a digital world

May 31, 2018
Anna Lokki

The quickly developing digital and mobile world and the unlimited supply of information and possibilities around us, is making it more and more challenging for retailers to really stand out on the high street. Ever tried grabbing the attention of a customer with a tension span of an insect?

Smartphones in our hands almost like a new limbs — to the point of exhaustion, we tend to bounce from one app and site to another, making our offline time ever so valuable. Offline time, with real human contact utilising all four of our senses — something rare and extremely precious.

So how to get customers to raise their gaze from the screen? How could your brand offer more of that precious offline time?

We listed some of the most impactful trends in the world of physical retail that could be the essence of building those meaningful offline moments for a succesful omnichannel strategy.

Change, change and change again

In this hectic world around us, customers want to experience, learn, do and see new innovations and ideas constantly. In-store environments are only slowly learning how to adapt to this pace. Changing a physical space on regular basis might feel like an impossible task, but New York based Story is proving everyone wrong and taking the art of change to a whole new extreme! Finding the right extent of change needed to keep your customers interest doesn’t necessarily require such huge steps, but be critical — perhaps it’s time for a refresh? Could a regular visit from a professional Visual Merchandiser give that new fresh approach for your store?

Finding the right balance is harder than ever though—evolving your store constantly, yet enforcing values of stopping to enjoy life and finding the calm of letting go of your mobile for a second. Finding the balance between speed and those priceless moments offline also means renewing with limited editions and smaller collections pushing for more conscious consumer choices. As we know, the only thing certain is change


Image credits: Story

Mother Nature has entered the high street

Old school values, tradition and the organic world has found their way back to hearts of the consumers. With the fear of plastic flooding our land and seas, bringing organic elements and nature into the store environments has been a growing trend for a couple of years already.

Green decorating has given the feelings of authenticity and coziness into the overly clean and hospital like store spaces. Plant walls and inner ceilings to actual trees in-store has been seen broadly across the retail and restaurant landscape. In Helsinki one of the newest examples was a Iittala x Wild Things collaboration powering the ‘It’s a floral affair’- campaign. And in Singapore airport, the Butterfly Garden is bringing a whole new level of zen to those eternal hours spent in recycled air for many travellers.

This green trend offers alot of opportunities especially for shopping center locations, where creating more realistic outdoor spaces is in high demand.

Is chlorophyll the new black in retail?

Image credits: Design Boom

If you buy, buy smart and sustainable

As the large mass is becoming more and more aware of the sustainability, they are also demanding more transparency and responsibility from the brands they are interacting with. As a result we have seen the increased concern of our environment create many exciting new sustainable concepts in the restaurant and grocery store scene.

The boom of sustainable concept design can be seen from product all the way to store design and other consumer touch points. Stores with no plastic such as the Bulkmarket, are taking their stance in the market making traditional supermarkets run for their money. For Grön —voted Helsinki’s best restaurant — the key to success lies in their handpicked fresh forest produce and a key focus on slow food. The collaboration between Finnish designers Linda Bergroth and Harri Koskinen have shown us the magic behind recycled spaces. The Zero Waste Bistro, in New York’s WantedDesign in May 2018, combined recyclable packaging, zero waste food concept from restaurant Nolla, circular economy and timeless design.

Image credits: Dezeen

Same, same but different

Do you remember the excitement to unpack your luggage because you’ve bought treasures overseas you couldn’t find back home? Thanks to globalisation, shopping whilst travelling has in truth become a bit boring. The same stores everywhere you go, with geography being the sole differentiating factor. Sure, it is a modern luxury that many of us are able to travel anywhere at anytime.

However, isn’t the point of travelling to see the world and experience something you wouldn’t normally experience at home?

There is definite value in ‘making things hard to get’ again. Naturally, smaller local brands and retailers have this advantage, but it is well within reach for global brands as well. Starbucks as one of the big players has had this twist for long already — showing us that a brand’s values can stay the same but offering a local flavour makes a big difference even for the global citizens. Yes, many of us drink our morning coffee from a an ‘Amsterdam Starbucks’ cup.

Making a concept limited for a certain amount of time or space and you’re pretty much good to go —immediate increased consumer interest. Take Spectacles for example— Snapchat’s video sunglasses which were first sold through popup vending machines popping up in random locations. Only for a limited amount of time of course. And as we can see from Spectacles, creating something slightly out the context of normal (Videosunglas-vending machine kind of abnormal), awakes interest and activates people. You’ll soon find your customers more focused on the interactions itself rather than just the product their buying.

Your customers are on the move more than ever so why wouldn’t you? Don’t wait that customers find you, go catch them and learn to adapt!

Don’t just buy — experience

The times of product driven market is long gone and we are living the times of retailing experiences. It is all about being able to create a meaningful, memorable experience that something evokes emotions — and then the product will follow.

So time to start actively involving your customers by experiencing it beyond just the product. Make sure to focus on creating memories as they visit your store to help them relate and attach to your brand. If there were no products to walk out with, what would your customers leave your store with? This could be a chance to do a makeover to old design pieces like at Hermes. Or in another extreme it might mean building a entire popup museum promoting Glade’s home fragrances — the Museum of Feelings. It’s about sharing your brand values like at the TOMS’s stores, were through VR glasses customers could be part of the happy moments of people receiving TOMS shoes they donated by purchasing their own pair.

Meaninful time offline

As the number physical interactions with our customers decreases, each one of them becomes more and more meaningful. We need human interaction more than ever and this is where the power of physical retail as a part of a succesful omnichannel strategy steps in. People long for relatable value structures that can be seen, heard, felt and even smelled in your store environments and across all integrated channels with one seamless message. So ask yourself how your brands could offer customers more meaningful time offline?

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