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Creating A Community Hub In Store To Drive Footfall

In the digital world, brick and mortar retailers need to reinvent the way the public interact with their brand. Rather than simply purchasing, customers are looking for new experiences, which also benefit the wider community. Here, Kelly Fairchild from Ipsos Retail Performance, discusses how retailers can encourage shop visits through in-store incentives and nurturing a community within a retail environment.

Public spaces, such as town and city centers, have always been at the heart of the community, acting as the first social network before the digital age. From markets to chain stores, shopping was an opportunity for interaction and meaningful experiences.

The buzz of the marketplace was enough to draw people, as a local source of everything a shopper could need, providing a strong sense of convenience before the internet. Eventually, the social aspect grew around it, but as we become more time-pressured in our daily life, shopping has become more of a functional task driven by low prices and convenience.

Since then, though behavioral change has led to the downfall of some big-name brands, most brick and mortar stores have learned to adapt, bringing in digital tools to speed up services or trialing new experiences to entice shoppers. Experiential spaces may be a sure-fire win for big brands, including Vans, which introduced skate parks in their stores, and Ikea, hosting in-store sleepovers. The cost and risk of this are often too much for smaller retailers however, so a scalable alternative is to create in-store communities that reignite the idea of social shopping.

Environmentally conscious

Fast fashion has been under scrutiny in the past few months, with millennials and Gen Z leading the way in environmental awareness and helping to influence other groups. As a result, retailers are increasingly challenged to ensure their practices are in line with their customers’ values and expectations.

Patagonia is one of the most notable brands to undergo a radical ‘green’ cultural transformation, offering one per cent of the annual turnover (estimated around $215 million) to environmental projects. They also offer a number of campaigns encouraging customers to recycle or repair old jackets to avoid clothing turning up in landfills.

H&M follows in a similar fashion, offering in store vouchers for any unwanted clothes in its recycle scheme. These schemes demonstrate a retailer’s commitment to social responsibility while also attracting shoppers, as it shows the steps taken to make up for a problem within the industry.

Staying fit and healthy

Alongside environmental awareness, younger generations are taking physical and mental wellbeing much more seriously than previous generations, and retailers are increasingly tapping into this trend.

Athletic wear brands Lululemon and Sweaty Betty host yoga classes in the stores, offering the social interaction alongside product exposure and sales opportunities. Saks Fifth Avenue however, chose to go one step further with wellness and dedicate the second floor of its flagship store to physical wellbeing. Creating a market-style hub for health and fitness, the Wellery was created offering everything from workout equipment and classes, to beauty treatments and unique salt-based steam rooms.

Offering the full treatment

Brick and mortar still claims the advantage on e-commerce in sectors such as hair and beauty, since the benefit of testing and trying outweighs the convenience of online purchases. Some brands go above and beyond to secure their loyalty, offering a host of activities and treatments to boost footfall and social sharing. Lush is a great example of this, as a number of stores now offer spa treatments alongside its products.

In-store festivals

In a bid to become more than just a place to spend money, many big retailers host a line-up of exclusive events and pop-up festivals related to specific products.

Rough Trade, for example, invites bands and artists to perform in its music stores as a way of supporting the local music community and driving sales of vinyl and CDs. Fashion brand
Paul Smith created pop-up art and fashion shows, allowing customers to come face to face with iconic designs and historical works of art.

In-store festivals are a brilliant idea for food retailers too as they open the floor for master classes and demonstrations on produce including wine, beer and finer confectionary. Loyal customers are then given the chance to meet the suppliers and understand more about their products, where they come from and how they are made.

Going digital

In the digital world, the most successful retailers understand the importance of making their stores interactive. This could include social sharing opportunities such as Tommy Hilfiger’s changing room selfie ‘bouncepads’, or Victoria’s Secret free gift offer when a customer shares a selfie in front of a display. This allows retailers to benefit from a wider audience as each shopper shares their love for the products online.

As e-commerce companies continue to grow their market share, brick and mortar stores have the opportunity to evolve from product-based stores to creating experiences which reflect society’s desire to connect within a local community. Through this transformation, retailers can boost footfall as they produce a loyal customer base that repeatedly interacts with their engagement efforts.

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