Retail is undergoing a massive change as bricks-and-mortar stores are evolving for a digital-commerce age. Shopping is shifting from an activity that takes place to a value exchange that can play out in multiple new and novel ways. In the lead up to the all-important Christmas season, there’s ample room for Irish retailers to examine how digital technology can help them drive footfall towards in-store.

Considering that around 70% of online Irish consumer spend goes out of the country, digital technology can be used to keep more revenue in Ireland. While the pace of this change is rapid as consumer attitudes and habits are fast-changing, many retail innovations have yet to make it to Ireland, so there's a real opportunity for an Irish brand to take leadership in this area. 

Our colleagues in JWT have compiled a report, 'Retail Rebooted', which documents this momentous shift. The report focuses on how bricks-and-mortar stores will increasingly serve as a “third space” that’s only partly about transactions. Given that consumers have grown accustomed to researching and ordering goods online and rarely need to leave their homes to shop, the physical retail store experience has to work harder—and in some cases rethink their purpose altogether—to justify their existence. The hard sell is becoming less important than providing something more fun, helpful, satisfying or distinctive than e-commerce can offer. 

Added services and experiences go beyond the typically transparent attempts at driving sales, giving consumers more reasons to enter their spaces and spend time with their brands and products.  This shift is accelerating, with a wide spectrum of retailers looking to Apple and other early innovators as they strive to make an in-person visit worth the shopper’s while. A third space experience might involve getting advice, talking about or testing a product, connecting with customers or staff over a shared interest, or having a relaxing space to rest mid-shop. These all serve to reinforce the brand.

As retail becomes more automated and the windows of interaction with the tangible product and live salespeople become smaller, the in-store experience is increasingly paramount. Using digital technology as part of the in-store experience is an area rich in promise. For example, do you present your video content in- store through interactive displays? Can your customers socially share items as they see, to get a second opinion from friends? Or have you used Google maps to digitally map your store interior so customers can find the latest offers by using their phone as they walk through it?

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