• Play Retail Ltd.

What does the future of retail look like, in 2019?

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

We caught up with Mark Howell, our Managing Director, to discuss the future of retail. Check out his insight below:


What impact is online shopping having on physical retail today?


M: Today’s shoppers have access to a wide range of new tools via their mobile device when shopping online. Things such as ratings, influencer reviews, personalised recommendations, offers and next day delivery provide shoppers with convenience at their fingertips. As a result, the expectations of shoppers who visit the high street today are changing rapidly.

However, one crucial thing that online shopping does not provide is memorable experiences. I strongly believe it is these tangible shopping experiences are instrumental in facilitating positive relationship building between shopper and brand or retailer; A valuable formula which drives sales, brand loyalty and converts shoppers into advocates for your brand.


So, is the High Street dead?


M: No way! I don’t believe that online retail has 'killed the high street’, as I so often read in the media. It’s true that retailers who have not recognised the changing expectations of today’s shoppers and quickly learnt to adapt who have suffered. But, on the other hand, those retailers and brands who have embraced the shift towards innovative, differentiated, community-centric retail experiences are thriving. Creating memorable experiences for shoppers who still value physical retail.


While change can be scary, it provides new opportunities. It’s an exciting time for retail designers; who’s job it is to drive innovation in the sector.

Who do you think are creating successful retail activations at the moment?


M: I love the Nike Live store concept in LA. The most convenient location for a new LA store was determined by analysing customer data in the local area, with Nike’s focus being to provide customers with ultra-convenient, useful, shopping experiences. Data was analysed to inform which services to provide: from click and collect lockers, to product testing using in house gym facilities, or 30 minute 1-2-1 consultations with training experts and in-house stylists. Nike also analysed buying habits and preferences to determine what stock will be kept in-store and which community services to offer. 


Nike Store, Los Angeles

Also the new store for H&M in Hammersmith is so well executed. Services such as embroidery personalisation, clothes repair, online ordering and an in-house florist provide both convenience services and memorable experiences for customers who are increasingly being incentivised to visit the high street.


H&M Hammersmith Store, London

How is Play Retail designing with the future of retail in mind?


M: We are working with our clients to deliver the future of retail today. The technology that we used with our OPI digital nail trail was inspired by types of tools that customers are used to engaging with when they shop for products online. What we did was bring this element to a physical environment in order to create an intuitive and engaging experience in travel retail.


OPI Digital Nail Trial FSU, Designed by Play Retail Ltd

What does the future of physical retail look like?


M: I think we will see the continuing rise and dominance of the 'pop-up' model of retail. The uncertainty of Brexit in the UK and the changing expectations of shoppers in favour of memorable experiences and ultimate convenience means that the rise of short term, highly differentiated, innovative and disruptive retail outlets seems inevitable. I see department stores and supermarkets mirroring this approach and allowing brands and concessions more freedom to surprise and delight their customers with engaging retail executions and services. 


The future of retail will be community-centric, turning the high street from what it is today: A homogenous repetition of chain stores, to a thriving and vibrant hub of the local community; embodying the unique personality of the town or city. The 'pop-up' model of retail means that high street will become a place for more than just shopping; instead it will be a place to meet and share memorable experiences, engage the senses, take part in community events and take advantage of omni-channel convenience services that only physical retail can offer. This is exciting for shoppers, but it will be the brands and retailers who are able to commercialise this change who stand to benefit the most. Perhaps it will be the likes of Amazon and Asos, online only retailers, who will look to capitalise, as they inevitably move to inhabit the physical retail landscape.


Mark Howell

Managing Director


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