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Are Retail Stores Dead or Are They Getting Redesigned?

Are retail stores dead? Is your favourite shopping source model dying a slow death? With the advent of technology and broadening of minds of consumers, online shopping is quickly becoming a shopper’s favourite. But, does it mean that it is replacing retail stores? Let’s find out.


The retail store is dead, long live the store. Lately, in the fashion stratosphere, there has been a buzz circulating that the end of retail, as we know is dead. With familiar retail outlets closing down following bankruptcy or being bought out at the 11th hour, an overdue restructure is evidently needed.

E-commerce, on the other hand, is apparently thriving, especially for Millennials, and is being hailed as the new way to shop. I’m not entirely convinced that this alleged apocalypse is really occurring but a transformation of the retail space certainly is.

Experiential Shopping

Eschewing clothes and accessories shopping, consumers are now spending more of their income on restaurants, entertainment and technology. Therefore, it makes more sense for retailers to create stores that offer something different yet also builds or strengthens a connection between the customer and the label. Perhaps something that creates a sense of urgency and excitement is required.

However, it must not be forgotten that humans still respond favourably to the same real-time shopping experiences.

Things such as memorable, convenient experiences, outstanding customer service, interesting visual design and straightforward shop layouts are still important and offer a quality that cannot be found online.

Savvy retailers will continue to use the shopping experiences of their customers for marketing purposes. By collecting information from personal shoppers it will be used to re-target them for future sales.

This transformation of the retail stores footprint can be attributed to three factors:

  • Balancing online and offline transactions,
  • Creating more meaningful experiences and
  • Shifting business models.

Other industries such as travel, wellness and technology are maintaining saliency within their sectors by providing an engaging consumer experience.

Examples of stores that give experience

Consider the Apple store with its enticing gadgets. How is it possible that one hour spent there feels like a minute? The beauty industry similarly and consistently engages consumers with in-store makeup demonstrations and experiences.

Sephora has gone one step further to blur the physical retail experience with the virtual digital one. They have produced the Sephora Virtual Artist which has allowed them to create a holistic consumer experience that integrates their online and offline offering.

Saks Fifth Avenue recently moved their beauty department to the second floor, from the ground floor. They have created a luxury spa-like beauty hub that they hope will entice a more loyal customer who luxuriates in the beauty experience.

The window to the apparel consumer experience is definitely online based. It could be likened to a magazine where you browse for the product but have the added benefit of pressing a button that says BUY.

Related reading: How to Best Connect With Retail Buyers and Stay in Touch?

This window is the portal to other experiences that should keep customers coming back for more. Examples include, an exciting space that allows customers to buy online and pick-up in-store (BOPIS), have a manicure, socialize with friends in the café and have personal tailoring and styling sessions.

Merely selling a product isn’t enough in this day and age of Omni-channels. Consumers want to immerse themselves into their favourite brands’ story to further connect themselves to their purchases.

The California-based Nordstrom recently opened a shop that replaces the product for the experience. They did this to take the important step of further appealing to consumer’s personal needs and to also reach their customer in a digital age.

Retail & E-tail

According to Neha Singh, of Obsess shopping in the future will be a combination of some elements of what physical stores have today, like visual merchandising and curated pieces, but they will also have all of these other things that don’t really work in a physical store.

These include augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) the tech advances being used to entice online shoppers to their favourite brand’s retail stores. Digital experiences are being created in-store while in-store experiences are being deployed online.

Obsess helps labels use AR or VR in three key areas:

  • Retail: AR is used in-store to allow shoppers to access digital media on in-stock merchandise
  • E-commerce: Allows online and mobile shoppers to see products in 3D in context right in front of them which increases conversion
  • Marketing: Virtual or augmented experiences are created that excite consumers. These include AR pop-up, VR recreation of a store or boutique and interactive catalogues

Obsess created a photorealistic CG virtual store for Rebecca Minkoff. Customers were able to shop from rails and the catwalk by using a headset and to complete the sales process in VR.

retail stores and technology

Technology and Retail

VR stores could become more common as the tech continues to become cheaper and more immersive. Brands could send headsets to their most loyal customers or have headsets in smaller stores to walk buyers through an entire collection.

Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Victoria’s Secret, amongst other labels, are already streaming VR fashion shows.

3D scanning and AR is also reinventing the shopping experience in store.  AR has been used to entice shoppers at TopShop in their fitting rooms. Their AR mirrors mean that customers no longer need to get physically undressed to try clothes on.

Uniqlo uses Magic Mirrors that change the colour of the clothes their customers are trying on.

Amazons future plans include the introduction of a system called virtual try-on. They recently applied for a patent for a ”blended reality system” to create an AR mirror for trying on garments at home. The mirror invention would enable customers to try on virtual clothes and place themselves in virtual settings, allowing them to stop imagining and to actually see a garment in context and in a setting of their choice.

What Must Retailers do?

It’s important that retailers are in tune with the purchasing modes of the millennial shopper; a shopper that has a different customer experience preference and cultural mindset to shoppers of yore.

They’re pro-sustainability, community and corporate social responsibility.

Loath to spend money on brands that don’t include value-added experiences on-site or contribute to educational insights.

Millennials regard collaborative partnerships among brands that are creative and offer great deals as the future of retail.


This new-age shopper demands Omni-channel integration from brands that cater to their changing consumer preferences and who know them well. If retailers can’t demonstrate synchronicity in their values from the brand image to product and influencers they associate with, they will find themselves in trouble.

If you have any questions about this article or general feedback then please do not hesitate to let us know in the comments below.