Burberry has just finished a revamp of its global flagship on Regent Street and one thing that is apparent is that much-vaunted tech, trumpeted when the store opened in 2012, has been largely stripped out.

The outcome is a fashion store where the focus is firmly on the product – in some instances a single product per room with all of the tablets removed.

Burberry regent st 1

The inference from all of this is that shopper-facing tech has proved something of a turn-off. It is also worth noting that the shiny, black-suited staff who greet visitors at every turn no longer appear to pack an iPad, or at least not ostentatiously so.

“This is still a tech-filled retail space, it’s just that the information that would previously have appeared on an in-store screen is now retrievable via an app”

Burberry regent st 2

In total, it looks and feels as if this store has been wrested from the clutches of the high-resolution screen brigade (although a massive screen in the atrium remains) and returned to the shopper.

Yet this is still a tech-filled retail space, it’s just that the information that would previously have appeared on an in-store screen is now retrievable via an app.

Burberry appears to have come to the conclusion that everybody has a screen in their hand/pocket and that they are far more likely to consult this when shopping than peering at a series of, admittedly slick, pieces of hardware that sit there flickering hopefully at browsing shoppers.

In their hands

Cross over to the other side of the world and in China, Alibaba’s Hema supermarkets are almost wholly reliant on customers using an app, for payment, information and, to a degree, entertainment. These stores look like stores, rather than screen repositories.

It is also pertinent to remark that by putting the onus on shoppers to conduct their shopping journeys assisted by an app, the cost of in-store hardware tumbles radically, leaving retailers free to invest more in creating real experiences that will tempt shoppers to come back.

In the case of Hema, this means an eating and drinking experience where the whole process of ordering your food (including from the fish tanks in the store) is done using the retailer’s app, but the ‘experience’ is the social one of sitting down to dine with friends. The app is the means to an experiential end.

Back in the UK once more and on a more mass-market basis than Burberry, the John Lewis app allows shoppers to glean product information, find out about offers and get news about new ranges, while shopping.

It is handy. All of which would appear to mean that when retailers put multiple ‘interactive’ screens into their stores, they may be missing the point and, just as importantly, spending money unnecessarily while failing to engage their customers.