Warren Richmonds’ career has always focused on the importance of storytelling and the desire to deliver the best possible customer experiences. In his current role as CEO and Founder of Situ Live, Warren Richmond talks to Retail Focus about the new concept, collaborations and what’s on the cards for 2021.
Tell us a little about yourself and your history leading up to the launch of Situ Live.
I have been working in retail in one form or another for most of my career, driven by a desire to deliver the best possible customer experiences.
It was actually during my first job, live demonstrations of printers and scanners, where I came to understand the power of storytelling. By placing the customers as the protagonist in the story and conveying how a product can enrich their life, I was able to hold their attention and create lasting impressions.
I wanted to harness this power of emotional connections to help brands stand out in a competitive market, so 20 years ago I established a leading technology field marketing agency, Retail Marketing Group. During this time, I had the pleasure of working with world-class companies such as LG, PlayStation and Adobe.
A few years ago, I took another leap and founded Situ Live, an immersive physical and digital shopper destination.
How long have you been planning to launch and what inspired Situ Live?
During my time setting up and growing brand agencies, I saw first-hand the problems lifestyle and technology brands have showcasing innovation products through traditional retail and e-commerce. There are so many trailblazing products out there that need better airtime and cannot be truly demonstrated online.
I was also frustrated with the multitude of barriers that start-ups face when getting their products in front of traditional retailers. So, I formed Situ Live to disrupt the market and provide an economical way for brands to present the true value of their products and services.
Meanwhile, consumers have told us they want to browse and be inspired on the high street, and then purchase online. Situ Live allows exactly that, with our digital platform making it easy to compare and purchase products at their own pace. It seamlessly brings together the sensory experience of physical venues with the convenience of digital sales.
Has the pandemic changed your thought process on opening a physical space?
More than anything the pandemic has solidified my belief in the importance of space for interaction and social connection. Humans crave novelty and experiences, they want a chance to escape their screens and try something new.
This idea was reinforced by the fact that in between lockdowns, footfall rose significantly in shopping centres and on the high street.
As a venue we’re set up to manage social distancing, as each home-style theatre is designed to carefully guide the footfall flow and density. This layout means visitors can go on a journey of discovery whilst feeling safe.
The first Situ Live location is at Westfield London launching later this year. Can you tell us what visitors can expect?
Situ Live is changing how people discover, experience and choose lifestyle products forever. Our aim is to be the destination for unique, new-to-market innovation products.
Endless rows of boxes on shelves are boring. To really capture the hearts and minds of shoppers we need to provide a space for them to understand how the products work and how they may fit into their lives. This product education ultimately provides a tool for them to make better purchase decisions and really fall in love with a brand.
In an omnichannel world how important is the physical aspect of retail?
Over the pandemic, we have seen an unsustainable rise in online product returns. I strongly believe physical retail is the only way consumers can ensure they are making the right purchase decision.
To buy the best oven, I truly think you need to taste the food it produces. To pick premium speakers, you need to listen to the music. To select a coffee machine, taste the coffee. The list goes on.
What many people forget is that a physical store is the best marketing channel you can have. They have a huge part to play in influencing consumer awareness and consideration, and ultimately building brand loyalty and revenue.
What types of brands can we expect to see at Situ Live?
Ultimately brands at Situ Live must be progressive, innovative and exist to change people’s lives. It’s no longer about mindless consumerism, it’s about buying products you need to help you live a better life – that could be as simple as saving you time or having more fun.
There are three different types of brands that partner with us. We have our Anchor brands which are premium, established brands who are looking to connect with a new audience. Showcase brands who are wanting to make to move from functional retailing to emotional retailing. Then our Discovery brands which have new-to-market, ground-breaking products or services.
The brands which benefit the most from joining us at Situ Live, will be those whose product value cannot be fully demonstrated online. Think VR headsets, sound systems, flat-screen TVs, and sofas.
How can each brand adapt to the space?
Through our onboarding process we work closely with brands to understand their pain points and their objectives. We identify the best stories and techniques to display the true value of the products.
Situ Live is arranged by lifestyle category, which means that complimentary products are services are placed next to each other. This enables shoppers to visualise what a product may look like in their lives and see how they may integrate.
Brands don’t need to adapt to our space as such as we allow total flexibility. If a brand wants to swap out a product or a range, then they can do so. We don’t create the rules, we create the opportunity for brands to shine and visitors to discover.
What’s next for Situ Live?
We’re really excited to open up our first venue in Westfield London this summer. We will be launching with Facebook, Lutron, Fitbit, Maserati and many more world-class brands.
From there we plan to learn and grow, opening additional venues across the UK. So, we are always on the lookout for progressive brands to join us on our journey.