Until late 2014, Pro:Direct was an online-only retailer. So when the world's largest online soccer store decided to go offline the aim was to be more than just a website with a shop. Instead Pro:Direct's London store is imagined as an immersive space, as though customers have just walked into the website itself.
To achieve this, Pro:Direct has embedded digital technology into every element of the space. The walls are made up of digital display screens and printed magnetic squares enabling the entire look, feel, colour scheme and branding to be switched over in as little as an hour. This means there's always something new encouraging customers to revisit.
This approach is tied to attracting Pro:Direct's target customer base of digitally-savvy young people, who are used to targeted, constantly updating streams of information. Pro:Direct's aim is to be on the cutting edge and sharing something new and interesting, rather than showing the customer what they've already seen.
In-store touchscreens let customers browse and order the full range of products from Pro:Direct's website meaning the products displayed in-store can be kept to a minimum. Shoppers can even select outfits for life-size models to showcase on high resolution 4K screens allowing them to see how items fit on a person, rather than a hanger.
Staff are equipped with iPads which are used to place orders and take payments, as well as control the space's music, light levels and colour. These are designed to increase the amount of time staff spend with customers while assisting them. The customer can stay in one place throughout the entire browsing, trying on and buying process, and be assisted by just one person.
It's not just about the technology though. Pro:Direct also adopts a digital mind-set when it comes to its store.
The lead products on display are the same as the top stories featured on the website for a consistent experience across all channels. The in-store team runs the store social media accounts giving it its own local identity online and off. What's more, Pro:Direct has even used social media to recruit staff by identifying those individuals who are most passionate about it as a brand, as well as sports.
One of the biggest ways that Pro:Direct is different to many other retailers is that is produces its own content, as opposed to just using standard advertising from the different brands it carries. This content is shown on the website, but also repurposed for the store, where it can be displayed on that multitude of screens. As much as possible content is up to the minute, with Pro:Direct even capable of shooting footage and then displaying it in the same day.
As an omnichannel shopping experience, there's a lot other retailers could learn from Pro:Direct. The store manages to have the functionality and always changing feel of a website, but with the destination-type experience of retail theatre. With a consistent brand feel, but the ability to quickly experiment and change things, Pro:Direct is bringing digital thinking to the high street.
Cate Trotter is head of trends at Insider Trends. Insider Trends is a retail trends consultancy delivering retail safaris in London, New York and Berlin, as well as trend presentations and workshops that help retailers identify what's next and how to get ahead.