Simon Jolly

Death of the high street? Build a brand experience

by Simon Jolly on June 18, 2013


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According to The Centre of Retail Research recently 62,000 shops could fold within the next five years. If true, this would mean that 316,000 workers would lose their jobs and Britain’s high streets would be transformed into housing.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that this is the result of an expected rapid increase in online shopping, which is forecasted to account for 22% of retail spending by 2018, compared to the current figure, in 2013 of, 12.7%.

So, how can companies combat this impending surge of fingertip shopping?

Let’s picture the scene.

You’ve just been awarded a promotion after a couple of years of hard work. Bottomless cups of coffee have been drunk, and tireless hours have been spent slaving away at your desk. And now it’s all finally paid off, it’s time to treat yourself to a little gift. A gift bought by you, for you.

Where are you going to look first? The answer is most probably the internet. You’re going to type ‘luxury watches’ into the search engine and indulge yourself in hours upon hours of scanning and reading up about the extravagant world of luxury timepieces. Flyback chronographs to tourbillons, moon phases to perpetual calendars; you begin to learn the words and speak the language.

After weeks of research and salivating you have become an expert. You find ingenious ways of ‘crowbarring’ in your newfound knowledge at any given opportunity, regardless of how irrelevant the conversation. You catch your two-year-old uttering ‘horology’ under his breath – it’s his first word. You’re delighted.

Then, you log onto the internet one day and you see it.

You dream about it.

You have to have it.

That one watch, perfect for you, has jumped out of the computer screen and is now engrained into your mind. Whatever wrist you’re looking at, or whichever virtual shop-window your gazing lovingly into, nothing quite compares to that one watch that, in your mind, will not only look great on your wrist, but will make you a better person in every single way. You read for hours about the selected model and you buy wholeheartedly into the brand.

So, here’s the next question. How are you going to go about purchasing it?

  1. Sit on your sofa, iPad in hand, and scan for days to find the cheapest option online, listed on the dodgiest looking website. Throw down a couple of bags of sand (slightly cheaper than the RRP) on the trusty bankcard, rush to the door every morning, and strike up a confusingly weird relationship with your local postie.
  2. You locate exactly where you can try on the watch. You’ll travel an hour or so to see it in person. You want to touch it, kiss it, sniff it, and then go home and think about how perfect it will feel when it’s on your wrist everyday and every night. You swoon with the dashing shop assistant, who speaks with a foreign twang. You don’t even know which country she’s from, but she smells nice, she looks nice and you have now subconsciously selected her to be the one to deliver your baby to you, luxuriously packaged in a swanky watch box. You quaff champagne and laugh as she talks you through the features and functionalities. You speak with so much love and admiration as you discuss your soon-to-be timepiece.

This is a perfect example of how the buying process can be as enjoyable and as rewarding as wearing that favourite watch you’ve spent months or years courting. The seamless move from online for research, to offline for the purchase, is typically how buyers are behaving – but the facts show the numbers researching and purchasing online is only going to increase.

It may be hordes of good looking models selling in a shop more a likened to a Californian nightclub, or knowledgeable staff willing to talk you through the latest tablet capabilities, or that personal touch of calling out your name when your coffee is up for grabs - shops need to continually create innovative ways of offering their consumers something beyond their product; a reason for them to relish the chance to come into stores after queuing for hours outside.

As long as there is an in-store experience to be had, customers will be willing to pay a premium for their dream product.

Whilst there are times when typing in ‘toilet flange replacement’ and hunting down the cheapest option is most appropriate, keeping people on the high street to make significant purchases will only be sustained if they’re being offered something the internet can’t fulfil.

If not, it will be just a matter of time before we see an alarming amount of store closures and the predicted job losses becoming a reality.

If you want to build a real experience into your brand, contact Cognition today.

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Simon Jolly

This post was written by Simon Jolly

Simon is a highly motivated Creative Director and designer specialising in branding & identity. With over 20 years experience developing branding, marketing, and award winning creative design.

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