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Seminar report: Embrace omnichannel to thrive

“We’re in a fourth industrial revolution” said Matt Lyons, former senior design manager at Boots, during the opening few minutes of his presentation at Retail Design Expo.

“We need to think about the physical store and how to react to such change,” Lyons told his audience.  As customers switch between different channels to consider purchases, the bricks and mortar store has to be part of a seamless experience, he added.But this is not about using the latest shiny tech available: it’s about using tech to facilitate a consistent customer experience that’s “going to add value”.

The future success of retail design is about understanding the fundamental role of the storeLyons argued: “The store can become more about the physical brand…customers will shop with brands they identify with.” Retailers can use their high-street presence to communicate brand values as much as making them about transactional environments he added, saying “We don’t need stores where we can buy stuff all the time. It can be about brand experience.”

The Samsung 837 store in New York is an example of a retail environment which has been designed to showcase the brand, said Lyon. The technology brand doesn’t describe the multi-floored space as a retail environment but as a “cultural destination” which is a “living lab and digital playground.” In fact you can’t purchase any products at all - and Lyons believes more brands will design stores in this way in the future.

It may seem counterintuitive to create a retail environment where you can’t buy products but in the long term this could actually be good for the bottom line. “If you can experience the brand in as many ways as possible and using as many senses as possible then it’s really good for loyalty and for sales,” said Lyons.

He ended the talk by explaining the strategy that retailers need to pursue is an omnichannel one. “Every touchpoint should be a consistent expression of the brand”, he said - warning those retailers that don’t prioritise this approach won’t survive the fourth industrial revolution.