Picture showing a time-lapsed picture of a shopping centre interior

Retail has had to change – but it’s rising to the challenge

Sue Flatto says that omnichannel shoppers can still find joy in bricks and mortar

Consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level since 1974. Against this backdrop, retail is challenged to tempt consumers back in store using creativity and technology.

The fundamental meaning of retail experience has also changed dramatically over the last few years. This change was developing way before we heard of Covid, but the pandemic has catapulted us into a future many of us could only peer into with wonder before.

But there is a new generation of omnichannel shoppers that demands seamless, engaging, personalised customer experiences across all channels with speed, flexibility and agility. If they don’t find it, they go elsewhere.

The key is that retail is no longer just about the acquisition of goods; retail also needs to provide services and is now a much more social experience.

There are some great examples of creativity from retailers.

Retailers are now focussed on offering the convenience of online shopping in stores

John Lewis is converting vacant space into residential property. Joining the Build to Rent market, it says it has “all the services to provide the best home for you”.

IKEA, the world’s biggest furniture brand, is branching out into selling renewable energy to households, and Selfridges now has a cinema on site (a luxurious one, of course).

However, bricks-and-mortar stores continue to be important as consumers still enjoy the social experience, but the internet has got them used to things like one-click shopping, seamless payment, detailed information about products and more.

So, retailers are now focussed on offering the convenience of online shopping in stores. This means combining the best of physical and digital to provide the best experience for their customers.

Customers can walk in, take what they want and leave

A great example of this is Amazon, which established Amazon Fresh grocery deliveries online, but has now opened Amazon Fresh stores.

It uses Point-of-sales (POS) technology and with the help of a smartphone app, cameras and sensors, customers can simply walk in, take what they want and leave. It’s also branched into health care – but that’s another story!

Picture showing VR glasses
VR glasses

We are likely to see the appearance of virtual reality glasses or phone apps which will overlay augmented information on spaces to reshape the store experience, further fusing the digital commerce world with the physical one.

Other retailers are replicating physical shopping in a digital environment.

Dyson has added to its retail offer by opening stores online to offer the best possible virtual experience.

From the comfort of home, you can “walk” around these stores virtually, learning about the engineering processes behind the company’s full range of machines. You can even speak to experts directly.

Now what of the future?

Well, technology will become more creative and enabling.

The metaverse is starting to have an impact: The first Metaverse fashion week was held in Decentraland, a browser-based virtual reality platform.

Selfridges has already signalled that it will sell NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and digital fashion in its store in Oxford Street.

Shopping centre owners and managers are needing to think creatively

So, shopping centre owners and managers are watching all this and are needing to think creatively.

Can they live up to the challenge? It’s essential for mall owners to reinvent continuously their centres to support retailers and maintain excitement and newness for customers.

How well are they doing? Put on your VR goggles and watch this space.


RealService are currently working with retail landlords to:

  • Help understand what they can do to aid their brand partners in delivering greater commercial performance for both parties
  • Increase understanding of how their partner brands are planning future growth and performance​
  • Discover areas of best practice which brand partners might be experiencing with other property owners​
  • Understand their partners’ strategic priorities and how these might affect their physical portfolio ​

If we can help you with your retail portfolio, please contact our chief operating officer Louise.Freethy@real-service.co.uk.

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