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Guest Blogger

By Yasmin Adeniran, Associate consultant, Capgemini Invent

Customer experience (CX) has always been a critical metric for brand differentiation and success. Especially in an age where online shopping is gaining the popular vote, the role of the brick and mortar store is evolving and taking on a new relevance. Retailers have been rethinking strategies and changing the way they sell. And it’s the concept stores that are leading the way when it comes to re-imagining the physical retail experience and impact CX.

What to expect from a concept store?

Concept stores offer a unique and exciting experience acting as a playground for consumers. They often target a specific audience with a mix of products curated around an overarching theme to further a lifestyle and community feel connected to the brand. By capitalising on tech-savvy consumers’ preferences for a personalised and seamless shopping experience, concept stores allow brands to engage and experiment with their audience.

This trend is gaining prevalence in the retail space, given the pressure organisations face from changing consumer needs. We have seen the likes of John Lewis and Waitrose, who have just recently announced a customer experience focused concept store in Southampton, entwining services, such as cookery school and personal styling packages with products. And then there’s The Body Shop’s concept store, which features an activism zone and refill stations, to further its CSR mission. The use cases, however, are truly endless and not just limited to one sector.

Pop-ups popping up

With the rise of the concept store, there is a particulate type of concept store that has gone mainstream: the pop-up store. These are temporary retail spaces that sell merchandise of any kind meant for an occasion. Short-term pop-up stores have shown to boost foot traffic, attract diverse demographics and spikes in sales for brands.

For example, following an initial five-week residency with Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE), Action for Children has just opened a unique pop up store showing how this model can also work in the voluntary/third sector. Supporting more than 387,000 children, young people and their families in the UK every year, Action for Children enlisted the expertise of the AIE for its Secret Santa campaign that seeks to make Christmas better for the vulnerable kids the charity supports.

So, what do you get when the AIE meets Christmas and a good cause? Elf. Ai.

Live for two weeks in December, Elf.Ai. seeks to awaken the visitor’s altruistic side while providing them with a memorable and meaningful experience by reimagining the process of charitable gifting. The visitor is taken through a series of images and clips where the AI gauges which image resonates with them the most through emotion detection technology. The AIE’s machine learning algorithm then aims to predict what kind of gift they should donate to a vulnerable child this Christmas. Once they have been recommended a gift, they can pick up a tag and proceed to the checkout to make the purchase, allowing for a seamless donating encounter.

Assisting visitors with which gift option to select in a way that’s solely unique to them meets a vital component in customer satisfaction, the need for a more immersive and personalised shopping experience. Another factor that helps in a great experience for the customers is the takeaway Instagram filter where they are transformed into a Santa, to be shared over social media.

The campaign and pop-up store are being also marketed across Action for Children’s website and social media channels – creating an omnichannel experience for the consumer. A great way to foster intimate connections between the customer and charity, but also spread awareness within the wider community too.

Concept stores ultimately allow for creative testing and building brand awareness but can also provide brands with access to broader ecosystems and new ways of engaging with their customers. In this case, a collaboration between perhaps two unlikely sectors. These partnerships can be the source of long-term innovation. With 69% of consumers believing that attending live experiences helps them connect better with the brand, their friends and their community, the need for permanent experiential spaces and imaginative customer experiences will only increase.

Elf.Ai. is a unique and exciting use case that showcases how there’s the chance for all sectors to harness technology to reimagine the CX to drive footfall and sales. Most definitely one to see first-hand. So, pop down to the Covent Garden store, donate to a great cause and spread the joy of Christmas!

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