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GUEST COMMENT A workforce for the store of the future

Fabrice Haiat, chief executive officer and founder, YOOBIC.

UK retailers are voting for the store of the future by building some of the most advanced and immersive experiences we have yet seen. But how can store staff be prepared for the new phase of hyper-experiential retail, asks Fabrice Haiat, CEO and Founder, YOOBIC.

Stores closed and stores opened between 2020 and 2021, but a year later, some retailers have decided that now is the time to launch the store of the future, and in some cases, go even further than anyone imagined a few years ago. If the figures are correct, this is safe bet; by 2024, research by Forrester shows that 72% of sales will take place in physical stores.

Add to this, in research by Raydiant, 48% of consumers said they prefer in-person shopping, while 82% said they were more likely to return to a physical establishment if they had had a positive on-site experience. This experience must offer something unique that is not available online; touch and feel will have to attain new heights, backed by excellent in-person customer service and all delivered by a workforce that is well-trained and well-equipped.

The philosophy behind the store of the future is that the experience is as important as the product on sale. Delivering this will depend on being able to combine technology with on-site attractions, services, and events to create memorable experiences.

The House of Vans in London is a venue for Vans fans to meet up to experience the brand promise of living life “off the wall”. The 30,000 square feet building combines art, music, BMX, street culture and fashion in an adaptable space that incorporates a cinema, café, live music venue and art gallery. And for skaters, the bottom floor holds the most unique feature of the building: the concrete ramp, mini ramp and street course.

Fast-growing beauty brand, Huda Beauty, created an immersive retail experience pop-up in London’s Covent Garden, with a sci-fi theme to promote a new eye-shadow palette Mercury Retrograde. The exterior of the pop-up was enveloped in metallic geometric shapes. Inside, mirrored surfaces and shimmering fixtures included a throne visitors could sit on, in order to generate lots of social media activity and engagement.

And Ikea invited 100 Facebook competition winners to one of its warehouses for the night. Customers chose their own mattresses, sheets and pillows and were supported by a sleep expert with tips for getting a good night’s rest. The Big Sleepover enabled Ikea to apply experiential marketing to its retail strategy and provide their customers with a memorable event that generated lots of engagement.

Workforce of the Future

Managing these new types of locations, the built-in technologies as well as delivering immersive experiences, means employees need to be thoroughly trained, particularly in digital technologies, and that they feel empowered to work autonomously and efficiently. Practically, this demands training programs tailored to unique experiential scenarios and providing access to productivity-promoting workflow platforms.

And this needs to be achievable at scale; one of the challenges of experiential retail is to offer this new customer experience in all the stores, not just in big city flagships. This requires working with a partner that can support technology platforms with team training, communications and in-store execution.

Moreover, as the line between digital and physical commerce narrows, it’s important that retail workers aren’t hindered by legacy sales software running on old hand-held devices. Taking the customer on a seamless journey that starts in store and finishes online, or vice versa, staff need access to connected devices that can help drive sales and better service by using shopper data.

To take full advantage of the experiential trend, retailers need to think creatively about how to entice customers back through the store doors. They also need to invest in their people and ensure that their sales associates have the tools and training required to deliver phenomenal customer service.

Get that wrong, and merchants risk deterring shoppers with clumsy, poorly executed experiences that are memorable for all the wrong reasons. But get it right, and they’ll be building closer customer relationships than ever before.


Fabrice Haiat, chief executive officer and founder, YOOBIC

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