So, what’s the answer? How do we bring our high streets and retail in general back to a better place? An experience? – yes, but with a more coherent view of what this really means. More importantly – responsibility. Retailing will never go away, it’s been a part of human society for millennia. Our approach to it however has to change.
Retail needs to be thought of and designed with a more holistic viewpoint. Experiences are about connecting face to face with other people, sharing knowledge and expertise, living by and acting-on your morals and values to forge relationships that we all want to build with each other – brands, businesses and customers alike.
Customer service is absolutely key. Store staff are the most effective conduit through which a brand’s mission and values are passed. Holding conversation with someone that exudes passion for what they’re doing and what they’re engaging you with is absolutely infectious. It’s the experience that sticks with us forever and doesn’t require constant regeneration or spiralling investment. What’s more, a strong human connection and a good experience though conversation, breeds a brand advocate – the best bit of marketing you could ever hope for.
The design of retail spaces so rarely takes a holistic and full circle approach. Following the standard linear approach of design – make – throw away is simply unsustainable and can’t continue. Instead, designing with a view to minimise environmental impact, provide longevity through flexibility and quality, and creating a plan for the end of life scenario, ultimately looking to avoid decommissioning fixtures and fittings and encouraging re-use.
Purpose holds all of this together. Brands and businesses operating today require a purpose, a reason to exist and to be able to voice the change they want to see in the world. Its draws customers to get involved and acts as the clear direction by which all actions and decisions are made.
The future relies less on focussing on finding quick ways to grab attention and instead looking for longevity in the approach. The future of the high street (and of retail), is really good customer service with strong values at its core, store environments with a full life cycle considered and designed in, and a purpose behind the whole operation – the reason why, a brand or business exists and operates in the first place.