As retailers of different stripes and vintages seek to build greater levels of loyalty and customer engagement, two key trends are emerging: online to offline and the provision of services as well as products.
Recently a number of well-known pureplays have opened stores in order to create a physical customer experience and project the brand’s personality in a way that cannot be offered online, no matter how strong the content or how well-edited the offer.
Missguided now has two flagships in Westfield and Bluewater which offer a fun, theatrical and irreverent experience that is bang on brand.
It is not alone. Specialist furniture etailer Made.com now has seven stores and online grocer Ocado has launched an interesting collaboration with Marie Claire magazine – a beauty fascia, Fabled, on London’s Tottenham Court Road. This is the online grocer’s second foray into bricks and mortar retailing following Paws and Purrs, a dedicated pet store.
Continuing this trend, Boden has recently opened womenswear concessions in five John Lewis stores and has just announced a new store on King’s Road.
“Opening stores is a significant moment for Boden as we continue to grow our business”, said chief executive Jill Easterbrook.
“This ‘do it for me’ trend isn’t new and the phrase was coined by the DIY firms several years ago, but they failed to capitalise on the opportunity to build closer relationships with customers and become a trusted partner, the way John Lewis can”
“Boden is a brand packed with personality and we are really excited about bringing this to life in retail for our customers.”
In contrast, well-established retailers with extensive store estates are finding new ways to either use their excess space or to generate greater loyalty in what may be viewed as commodity areas, such as white and brown goods.
Dixon Carphone’s move into services is well documented – as Seb James says, Amazon can’t install your washing machine yet!
His vision is to create a membership scheme whereby all your comms, electrical and tech needs are covered by a Dixons Carphone subscription.
Ikea has just announced the acquisition of Task Rabbit – if you can’t face the prospect of assembling its flat-pack furniture, then simply arrange for a ‘tasker’ to do it for you.
John Lewis has gone one step further with the launch of Home Solutions, allowing customers to book approved tradespeople through its website.
This ‘do it for me’ trend isn’t new and the phrase was coined by the DIY firms several years ago, but they failed to capitalise on the opportunity to build closer relationships with customers and become a trusted partner, the way John Lewis can.
And Paula Nickolds’ plans don’t stop there; she is sending partners to theatre school with the aim of having an experience manager in every store to create events right across the trading year.
Affordable tech is enabling greater personalisation, better editing and – the word du jour – curation.
Collaborations, exclusives and inspirational content are all driving frequency, spend and loyalty.
Next’s designer range Label/Mix uses the sophisticated technology of Directory, together with its physical network of stores, to bring smaller, niche brands within reach of its customers.
These developments and a holistic approach to exciting customers may just be enough to entice them back to the high street.
Fran Minogue is managing partner at Clarity