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Marketing Week (MW): Is using digital techniques to showcase products in high street retail spaces the way forward for brands?
Gary Pearson (GP): It’s important that it’s not digital for digital’s sake. It has to integrate with the customer experience and give people a purpose to come into the store.
What makes digital techniques viable and interesting is that they bring together what the customer is doing before and after they come in to the shop. For example, they could configure a red R8 [model] at home and load it on to the digital technology in-store through a code. Any changes or details added after speaking to staff is then saved and the code can be accessed at home if the customer needs more time to think.
MW: Is it important to have staff with the right knowledge as well as the technology?
GP: It’s crucial. We have learned as much from the staffing concept as we have from the digital technology. The motor industry has certain [negative] connotations around the service people might receive and we want to change that.
In our showrooms, you get a great welcome. There is no judgement whether or not you are buying the car and no desire or intent from the host to go directly into selling. You could spend 45 minutes wandering around and enjoying the technology and staff would be happy to spend that time with you. Equally, if you wanted to buy a car and speak to someone, they will hand over to a sales person.
MW: What are the key challenges in getting people into physical stores and spending?
GP: It’s giving them a reason to come in and making sure the physical space still has an attraction, whether that’s because it’s a space that transcends retail, they can come to events or see something unique. Making sure the physical space evolves alongside the digital environment is important.
MW: What kind of stores or brands do you think will have a high street presence in 10 years’ time?
GP: Those that have a purpose and continue to give customers a reason to come in to a store. It won’t be about which sectors and segments will or won’t be on the high street but which brands people want to engage with. Success on the high street will be about the strength of a brand’s emotional pull.