Doug Barber, managing director of retail design agency Barber Design, leads you on a journey of discovery through London.
We recently had an insightful afternoon of retail adventure when we took one of our clients on a ‘Retail Safari’ in London in order to show them some of the excellent high tech retail technology being utilised in some of our favourite stores. If you’ve got a passion for retail technology and want to know what we saw and why, here’s the low down on some of our favourite stores (and street) and what makes them so successful.
We met the client at noon at Bond Street Station and headed to our first stop – Bird Street. Just off Oxford Street, this little alleyway is the world’s first eco-friendly ‘Smart Street.’ The floor here is constructed from a new technology called Pavegen and is powered by kinetic energy, i.e. footfall! Visitors to the street can use a mobile app to see how much energy they are generating as they move down the street – on average about 5W per footstep. Their efforts are used to light LEDs and trigger bird sounds in this green oasis. The goal of the project is to open up parts of Oxford Street that weren’t previously being used, whilst encouraging best practices to reduce air pollution. Bird Street is lined with trees, plants and pop-up retail units, and also features a ‘clean air bench,’ which provides a relaxing place to sit with fresh, filtered air and real-time air quality monitoring.
Our next stop was Niketown in Regent Street. Enroute to the store we showed our client the Regent Street App, which uses beacon technology to guide shoppers to their preferred stores along with lots of useful info. Once inside the flagship Nike store we made a beeline for the ID space on the ground floor where shoppers can create their own unique, personalised footwear. Nike was one of the first brands to introduce an in-store personalisation section like this and it’s still proving a big-hit with shoppers, in amongst some truly exceptional retail displays.
Fresh from Niketown we hotfooted a couple of doors down and across the street to visit cosmetic brand Molton Brown. This flagship store features an excellent example of a magic mirror, which uses augmented reality to take customers on a virtual trip around the world to look at some of the ingredients used in Molton Brown products. The mirror scans the customer to see which products they are holding and then uses this information to show them exactly where and how the ingredients for each product were sourced. The experience finishes by presenting the customer with a short clip of their experience to share on social media and a 30ml sample of their chosen product – offering both a satisfying customer experience along with the opportunity for the brand to share their story on different platforms, via individuals. Genius!
After having some fun with the magic mirror and loading up with samples we took a diversion off the beaten track, down towards Carnaby Street. Our first stop at Fouberts Place was at Pro:Direct. Previously online only, the world’s largest football retailer decided to go into bricks and mortar with style, in 2014. The result is this fully immersive digital experience, designed to make shoppers feel as if they walked inside the website. Lined with video screens and interactive touch-screen technology Pro:Direct are constantly changing the store and upping their game so there is always something new and interesting to see every time we visit.
Next, a short hop to the main street and Pepe Jeans. This store which opened in April, combines respect for Pepe’s traditional heritage with a sense of playfulness and fun. The store uses a fantastic array of cutting edge retail technology, which is integral to the design. Like Niketown, there is a customisation station where shoppers can personalise their denim. In the changing rooms, interactive screens enable customers to request different sizes and styles from within the cubicle. RFID technology in each garment hangtag identifies which items the customer has taken into the changing room and suggests other options and colours via the video screens.
Shopping aside, there is a genuine sense of playfulness in this retail design: with bright colours and a striking LED art installation at the centre of the retail space. A large Twitter wall also displays messages from anyone who tweets the store.
For our last stop on the tour, we headed back up onto Regent Street to a true British fashion icon which – despite its 160-year-old heritage – has embraced retail technology with aplomb. The 44,000 square foot Burberry store effortlessly enhances the brand’s traditional roots with cutting edge digital technology. Refitted in 2012, when it was described as one of the world’s most technologically advanced stores the space features a digital gallery with 500 speakers and 100 screens, including one of the tallest indoor retail screens in the world. All of which have been installed sympathetically to compliment the 19th century heritage of both the brand and the building that this flagship store is contained within.
As customers traverse the store clutching potential purchases, RFID enabled hangtags trigger events on screen that engage them in emotive brand interactions. Changing room mirrors transform into video screens and shoppers are drawn into a fully immersive experience. Like Pro:Direct, the store is designed to be ‘like walking into a website’ but with a level of personalisation and human interaction only available in bricks and mortar.
After Burberry’s show stopper it was time for a late lunch and a discussion with our suitably impressed clients about the kinds of retail technology we are able to offer as part of our on-going commitment to retail innovation.
If you’d like to take the Retail Safari click here for a downloadable pdf of the Retail Safari map.