In previous posts we have highlighted some of the recent changes to bricks-and-mortar landscape: increasing vacancy rates, reduced consumer spending and lower footfall.These trends are contributing to the rise of short-term “pop-up” retail both in the UK and internationally. However, We Are Pop Up also think this is the beginning of a structural change in the way we use space, rather than just an economic cycle which will fade in time.
Some of the social and technological forces that are changing consumer activity will have profound consequences for both shop space and brands, and offer a great opportunity for those that can capture the imagination of a new audience. For facts and figures about the Rise Of The Mobile Audience, see our overview here.
MAKING YOUR STORE YOUR STAGE
There are an increasing number of retailers seeking to enhance engagement, from Levi’s Craft Of Music campaign, to Westfield’s Future Fashion events, exciting fashion start-ups like TheEdit @wearetheco and the Vogue-sponsored Fashion Night Out across London’s West End. Even pure-play online retailers like Capital One or eBay are increasingly experimenting with physical spaces and pop-ups to build engagement.
It may seem obvious, but physical engagement with a brand or community or product is the core advantage that a ‘shop’ – or increasingly ‘pop-up’ – enjoys over an online experience. Mobile computing is an agent in this physical to digital (or vise versa) journey.
The number of ways in which we can participate in a shopping experience is multiplying. We can share our experiences with our social media audience and are provided with digitally enhanced forms of service in-store. Just see how John Lewis bridges this gap with digital kiosks and incentives that cross platforms. For a new generation of retail, these steps are the key to engagement and profitable loyalty.
Hot Tub Cinema – a traveling theater and hot tub experience in London.
How To Engage In The Digital Age
It is estimated that the Vogue Fashion Night Out, for instance, increased footfall across Bond Street by a remarkable 92% – and a recent conversation with Caireen Wackett at Yellow Door reminded me what Mary Portas said back in September 2011:
“The only way for bricks and mortar retailers to compete with online is brilliant real life shopping experiences. Retail is no longer about number of units on the shop floor – it’s about offering a playground for your customers. Throwing big exciting events is one way to draw a crowd – but I believe the High Street should invest in better experiences for their customers every day.”
Big exciting events – the “theatre” of the retail world – don’t scale particularly well on the marketing and PR budget line. But mobile is a channel that can deliver personalized and exciting engagement everyday (remembering the late Steve Jobs’ caveat to “start with the experience, then work back to the technology”). A solution that can combine someone’s recent search history and preferences, the time of day, a particular location or even the last thing they bought, opens up the potential for far more nuanced and meaningful business-to-consumer journeys.
This more nuanced engagement delivers a more ‘authentic’ experience that all parts of the retail spectrum are currently seeking; from a start-up’s first steps into retail – like those working with Pop Up Britain – or an online retailer taking seasonal space, and even fully fledged independents and brands. A new generation of retailers is thinking not only about what they can provide to augment our lives, but also what kind of self-contained experience might captivate us most meaningfully. This indicates an exciting move away from old advertising models that told us what we wanted, and instead is built around what we actually do and care about.
Deloit predicts that over the long-term we will see a significant downsizing of store portfolios:
“This will vary markedly depending on the retailer’s category but reductions by as much as 30-40% are foreseeable over the next 3-5 years.” However some retailers, notably Apple and Nike, have led the way by showing that brand only stores can deliver great customer experience and provide a physical corner-stone to their consumer engagement. As vacant retail space grows more and more flexible, it is only a matter of time before the capacity and liquidity problems in the market are resolved. We can imagine a platform where all retailers have the opportunity to create active digital communities around the physical in-store experience, however short-term or permanent their presence.
This is where We Are Pop Up can play a vital role – enabling great physical experiences, reducing transaction costs and making the process of having a shop as easy as paying for a product online using PayPal.
Kellogg’s Ran A ‘Pay With A Tweet’ Campaign at a Soho, London shop in 2013
The CBRE (the world’s largest commercial real estate firm) observed that in the 1970’s, a retailer needed approximately 200 stores to access 50% of the UK’s population. Today it only needs 90 – sometimes less (assuming, of course, they are optimally located). Let us stretch the theatre analogy further to that of a traveling troupe – how many stores are required globally, over what locations and which time periods, to make sure a significant percentage of the world’s population enjoys your show?
I was recently asked to attended a meeting of the Small Business Statistics group at No. 10, hosted and chaired by Lord Young. The group was discussing the fragmentation of parts of the economy as an increasing amount of trade is transacted by e-commerce platforms like Ebay – and what challenges that this poses for measuring activity and productivity – in the first recession in living memory where unemployment has gone down! The conversations in the room were enthusiastic, and focused on new ways to transact and how to make the most of current market shifts.
Capturing mobile audiences represents an unparalleled opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers. From start-ups to independents to brands – those that embrace mobile platforms in an intelligent and timely manner have the chance to create and sustain real competitive advantage.
Perhaps with the rise of the mobile audience are we about to see the rise of mobile retail itself.
The Changing Face of Retail – Deloit
M-shopping: Final nail or final hope for the High Street? – Sponge
Other parts of our Future Of Retail installments
This post kicks off a weekly series where each of We Are Pop Up’s team members will take a turn applying their expertise to the concept of pop-up. This week features Alastair Moore – COO and Co-Founder of We Are Pop Up. You can ask him questions on Twitter @latticecut.