Retail and Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) stores have been on an absolute rollercoaster ride for the last decade, and the pandemic has added new layers of complexity and challenge. At the same time, the pandemic has also helped consumers identify what’s really important to them. Experience! PWC reports that nearly 73% of consumers point to experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions. Also, 80% of shoppers make impulse purchase decisions in-store at the point of sale, compared to online. This represents an important opportunity for brands to work towards stores as a medium in the future for retail.
With store development, digital transformation, and retail strategy plans constantly evolving, developing stores as a medium (SaaM), rather than as a channel, helps brands make real connections with their audience while providing the experience that people crave when they visit physical locations.
In 1964, Marshall McLuhan, philosopher and media theorist, coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ in his seminal text ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’. The concept identifies the medium of communication, not the content it carries, as the primary focus. Over 50 years later, McLuhan’s concept has never been more relevant than in the mid-pandemic digital age of retail. The challenge now is to utilise the right technology to help physical stores evolve as a medium and make in-store experiences feel more human.
Consumers in 2022 want speed + convenience + consistency + friendliness. A human touch (obviously not literally in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic) brings all four of these together at physical spaces in a way that simply cannot be replicated online. Stores as a medium are places to create real connections by making technology feel more human and giving employees what they need to create next-level customer experiences.
Forbes notes that it’s important not to confuse SaaM with omnichannel. They say that all the talk about different channels is not particularly helpful. The customer is the channel. SaaM is the effective use of data-driven technologies — from AI to digital signage — to create remarkable in-store experiences that are enticing, engaging and interactive.
Another differentiator is that designing stores as a medium is more than just about selling products, it’s about advancing the brand itself. More about moving hearts and minds, rather than just moving inventory — Move the hearts and minds, then the inventory follows, along with brand advocacy.
One brand that gets customer experience and SaaM and has massive brand advocacy is Gelato Messina. Their stores have always been instrumental in their success. Their delicious gelato is an experience in itself, however, store visitors also enjoy world-class underground House Music, a unique in-store environment, and engaging storytelling digital signage content that makes you feel like you’re part of the brand.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to SaaM strategy. Each physical space has its own diversities and variables and it needs to be tailored to the brand and customer identities. That’s why it’s important to choose a technology partner with experience in, well, ‘experience’. datmedia has been at the forefront of in-store customer experience and digital signage for longer than #CustomerExperience has even had its own hashtag. We help retailers, banks and multi-site businesses create environments that people want to come to and experience something unique. Consumers aren’t comparing your brand to the competition anymore, they’re comparing it to the best experience they’ve ever had. Let’s serve it up for them!
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