2018 was definitely the break out year for brands backing brick-and-mortar stores. I recently visited SHOWFIELDS, a new kind of department store, that bets on digital start-ups that want to explore a physical space. The self-proclaimed ‘Most Interesting Store In The World’ has instantly created a buzz – having taken the time to see it for myself, here are my thoughts.
In the early days of online shopping, digital stores allowed brands to take advantage of a relatively cost-effective and highly convenient way to offer products to their customers.
This has meant that in a relatively short period of time the online marketplace has become both saturated and highly competitive, making it harder for brands to stand out and find success through this medium alone. Forward-thinking brands have recognized this and are returning to retail in order to create statements that easily set them apart from their competitors.
However, the fact that people are clearly responding to big initiatives can make the investment required hard for smaller brands to justify.
Showfields’ platform leverages the accumulative pull of the many brands that sit within their space and offers thoughtful furniture that can be customized by the brands so that they can enjoy the benefits at a fraction of the cost. This makes the concept as generous as it is innovative.
Thanks to fake reviews, highly edited imagery and poor customer service online platforms and their customers are currently experiencing major trust issues.
Showfields helps brands navigate consumer relations, connecting brands with their customers in a real space will allow them to make direct assessments of the product quality. This leads to initial purchases, as well as removing the largest hurdle when it comes to repeat purchases online.
This reflects our strongest belief in retail; whilst we recognise the strengths of online when it comes to allowing consumers to access products from anywhere, there is no better platform than physical space when it comes to building relationships with a genuine connection.
Last month, my exploration of Restoration Hardware‘s Flagship concluded that people are social creatures and desire human interaction, much of which is achieved by Showfields.
Yet Showfields also offers people the chance to learn, explore and interact with new brands. If the concept is a success, they will be able to generate ongoing relationships with people who can trust that they will find something new with every visit.
With less innovative department stores dying out, we are excited by this creative concept. Having worked with many a myriad of department stores over the years to improve customer experience and journey, we note a few key adjustments we would make to these less innovative stores.
Building community is a major movement for brands and we lean towards open internal structures, making a more comfortable and social experience, leveraging a powerful collaborative feel.
Catering to a range of budgets will also be key. Offering varying furniture setups will allow people to tailor the level of customization to their budget. The use of flexibility within the store will encourage smaller brands to join and motivate growth for both the brands and department stores.
Navigation through thoughtful grouping of departments will spur an engaging customer journey.
Knowing that, for many of the brands, this will be the first endeavour into retail we would work hard to advise them as to how they can make the most of the opportunity.
By building a space that helps people to find the right products and leave the space with a key understanding of how to create the foundations upon which long-term relationships are built.
Showfields will give great insight to determine whether customers genuinely value the opportunity to engage with your brand in a real space. This should lead to the experience becoming part of the brands’ growth and encourage turnover that will give people a reason to keep coming back, and see what’s new within the space itself.
When brands are successful in the physical realm, investment in standalone stores will ignite the ‘high-street’ magic we have all been missing. This will undoubtedly be a step up for the brand; they will need to ensure that their investment leads to success.
When investing time, energy and capital, where possible do not hold back. Give people a reason to get out and see your space, give them a reason to become an ambassador for your brand and encourage them to come back with others and share their experience.