The future of physical retail is a contentious issue that has polarised opinion; some believe it is only a matter of time before its demise while others believe there is still very much a need for physical shopping space. Nathan Walker – one of our Media Executives – recently attended a webinar hosted by Ocean Outdoor and Westfield, who shared their experiences in the retail space over the past year along with some emerging trends; trends which suggest that there may yet be a bright future for the retail sector if it is developed in the right way.

Why are Westfield outperforming the market?

Despite numerous headlines over the past decade declaring that footfall and spend have been dropping, Westfield have reported record figures for both footfall and consumer spend over the past year. The Black Friday event last year recorded more than 900,000 visitors which suggests it is far from a dying space. Following the introduction of lockdown restrictions earlier this year it was found that the average consumer saved £1,000.00 and it is no surprise that the luxury and technology sectors have seen the most growth following this, with consumers having more time to reflect on their purchasing behaviour. Westfield have subsequently seen this year’s sales figures exceed last years, in stark contrast to those reported by news outlets.

Westfield have been focusing on the experiential side of what a retail space can offer through innovative offerings. Offering an exclusive experience in-store aids in driving footfall to a ‘destination’ location. The Pokémon store that was launched to showcase the new game launch for the Nintendo Switch recorded a queue over a mile long – consumers who were clearly keen to visit in person and take part.

Fourth industrial revolution

Covid has accelerated change in ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ – the development of automation which blurs the lines between physical and digital and includes technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and robotics. Lockdown measures have ensured that the use of automation and data have become a bigger priority than ever before, and are arguably one way to alleviate mundane tasks and improve the quality of information we receive. This data-driven approach is an area of development that is somewhat inevitable, and the most successful businesses will be those that adapt and grow with these emerging technologies.

Combining digital and physical spaces

If the success of Westfield is anything to go by, physical retail space is very much alive and kicking. The key takeaway centres on the way in which these physical spaces are used. No longer are they the prime purchasing channel, but they should be a key route to engaging with consumers. A store should engage and excite a consumer, becoming a home for experiences and emotion-evoking activities. Humans will always favour the opportunity to experience brands and products with their senses over a simple visual stimulus achieved online.

At Space & Time we are channel agnostic and can recognise the benefits of each, prioritising the goal over the channel. An omni-channel approach is always recommended to achieve campaign objectives and deliver the best results. Working with both online and offline media helps to build a brand that consumers can trust. We keep our finger on the pulse in terms of what media (and combinations of media) is working most effectively and work with our clients, suppliers and partners to ensure that all campaigns are working as hard as they can to deliver the best results – especially against the turbulent backdrop of 2020. Although the physical presence of a store is obviously still important, the rise in e-commerce is also undeniable.

To discuss how we can help you with your marketing strategies get in touch with a member of our team today.

Nathan Walker, Account Executive