Thursday, 19 June 2008

The Key to Success in the Next Generation High-Street

The key is customer experience. Branding online is primarily about the experience, and it is making the passive, push marketing approach we've lived with since the start of capitalism obsolete. With price and quality becoming more and more homogenous on the high street, retailers must start moving towards experience focused outlets that are built around impressing and engaging their customers, rather than the traditional model of simply cataloguing or showcasing the products or services they can offer.

I feel there is significant scope to achieve this by making the in-store customer experience richer and more fulfilling by learning from the web experience.

Like Web 2.0 web-sites, the next generation high street store must demonstrate a better appreciation of the target consumer as a person rather than a product buyer. In other words it must make the shopping experience person-centric by providing space, comfort, information and social engagement, with easy points to call for help, and valid reasons to come in and enjoy the in-store experience for browsers; whilst also providing efficient entry and exit routes for shoppers who know what they want.

Retailers must conversely also appreciate the elements of the shopping experience that make store customers uncomfortable and look for avenues to cut them out, for e.g. not enough browsing space; product overcrowding; help not unavailable at the right time and place; and lengthy purchase queues.

So what could the High Street 2.0 physically look like? Well, one route might be where large stores evolve into experience-focused social spaces with products as a backdrop, while small stores leverage user computing and web technology to shift towards becoming product information hubs where consumers use touch screens to choose what they want to see, try, and buy.

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