Can We Save The Dying High Street?
Could creating an immersive shopping experience be the last resort to save the dying High Street?
In the world of online shopping where everything is on demand and people spend more time looking at their phone screen than the real world, it has been said by experts that a person’s mobile phone, especially a young person, is in fact not an obsession, but an extension of their personality. But in today’s society where the rapid development of technology is coupled with the High Street shopping experience dying a slow, painful death one shop at a time, it has also been confirmed that people are in fact allowed to demand things happening vertically and quickly, because if we can have it that way, why not I suppose. But, as far as the good old brick and mortar store is concerned, are we as a nation coming back round to the idea that an immersive, physical shopping experience is a better way to shop? After all, that’s how business once thrived, so is the old, traditional way better?
An immersive shopping experience at a brick and mortar store is all about making garments tell a story, fitting them into a consumer’s certain lifestyle and enabling them to have a heightened place in people’s lives. In the digital age, shoppers are yearning to touch, try, smell and immerse themself into clothing rather than just stare at a pixelated image on a screen. Dallas based Boutique store Forty-Five Ten creates this immersive experience well, by presenting a concept store, that creates an almost a fairy-tale world through different clothing that tells a story and invites the customer in. Themed music plays that matches the brand’s aesthetic and smells draw consumer in. Yes, this is on a large scale and much more on the luxury side of things, but with the luxury market expecting a strong 2019 according to Business of Fashion, could this ever so slightly be filtered down into the high street retailers, and could this be a way to revive the crumbling high street? It would take time and money but it could work.
Still many shoppers who don’t have an awareness of developments oversees, often question how brands can make a shopping experience more traditional and immersive, when everyone is in such a rush all the time and everyone apparently has an innate British gene within us that makes us unable to communicate with strangers well. How about getting back to basics and having personal shopping assistants for each customer that come in the store. They could take you around the store, advise you on garments to fit your style, and help you with the fit. Luxury brands do this often, but if your average fast fashion brand were to do this, it might make the whole shopping experience into a more enjoyable task or a fun day out; like the way shopping used to be before technology took over and websites introduced a ‘virtual’ assistant named something ridiculous like a ‘Bot’. Do we really want our details and questions being answered by an ominous creation on the computer? I don’t think so, I’d rather have a physical human giving me advice, wouldn’t you?
An immersive shopping experience doesn’t have to just be about browsing the physical garments on offer though. It’s the little extra touches. How about teas and coffee in store, so shoppers can make a brew and perhaps even a friend while they’re shopping. High-end high-street retailer White Stuff does this in their concept style stores, by having little tea trays placed next to a set of armchairs, however this is perhaps just a prop for the men in the store shopping with their female partners to awkwardly stand next to while rolling their eyes at another awkwardly standing man while their wife’s try on yet another outfit. But what if this was rebranded into an immersive experience, with stores making this facility readily available?
Brands could create an immersive shopping experience by having some hands-on fun with the consumers. Like installing a piece of technology to enable them to custom design or edit, if you will, their own pieces of clothing, just to make them a little more unique to them, and again make the shopping experience a little more exiting and immersive. Yes, this still centred around technology, but the consumer would still be immersed in physical stores with people having a laugh with people. Virtual mirrors also make the shopping experience fun and immersive. In the digital age, technology in store is still provides an immersive experience, as shoppers won’t just be sat at home feeling like they are part of something huge on the internet when in reality they are isolated behind their black mirror.
Many people may say this immersive shopping experience is just a pipe dream, or another marketing scam by brands to entice more customers into the store, but when people live online, could an immersive shopping experience be the thing shoppers need to take them back to the good old days when leaving the house was fun? And, when all else fails, could this immersive experience be the thing to shoot shopping into the front of people’s lives again and save the dying high street. Only time will tell.
Written by Anna Bevilacqua
Image one ‘explore and play’ – from Econsultancy.com – https://econsultancy.com/12-more-examples-of-digital-technology-in-retail-stores?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Econsultancy&utm_campaign=3743229_1121-daily-pulse-uk-2014-02-28&dm_i=LQI,288AL,9O6XAU,82H4E,1
Image two ‘Forty-Five Ten store’ – from Cntraveler.com – https://www.cntraveler.com/shops/dallas/forty-five-ten
Image three ‘inside Forty-Five Ten’ – from droeseraney.com – http://droeseraney.com/client_work/forty-five-ten/
Image four ‘interactive screen’ – from Retail Assist.co.uk – https://retail-assist.co.uk/technology-brings-shopping-store-hand/