Retail in the 21st Century

Do Brands Require Physical Space?

What next for retail? Stores are shutting, brands are digitalising, and consumers are getting savvy. Whether it be niche practices or established brands, everyone is feeling the effect. Physical retail is clearly losing its market share to the digital world. Digital is more accessible, it is more convenient and it is often cheaper.

Oxford Street, London, 20th Century

Looking to the future, traditional retailers will need to think deeply about how they are going to survive in these turbulent times. The hope is, that as it still accounts for a large proportion of the market it can still play its part. Whilst some suggest this marks the end of the road, it is not. Traditional retail is not disappearing, it is rather experiencing a shift. The article on how online retail is effecting traditional shopping discusses how the shift is happening and what this means.

Soon, “digital brands” won’t be referred to as digital brands anymore. They will simply be referred to as “brands”. All firms will be digital, it will not be unique, and it will be the norm. A brand with a digital presence and no physical one might then ask themselves if they should include physical space as part of their business model. Would it be worth it? And more so, would they really want to enter a failing sector? The answer will vary for every brand and is likely to be no straightforward matter. For many brands, physical space will come as a burden more than anything else. For those considering it, they sure need a good reason to do so. It is worth noting that this opinion is more prevalent in firms offering products and services rather than those offering experiences.

One obvious reason to introduce physical space is “brand exposure”. As such, opening a space should not necessarily be there to serve its own purpose, rather it should be there to complement its online presence. Whether as a form of advertisement, a tool to increase brand awareness, a way to introduce new products, or even to try new concepts out. If applied correctly, this can have a positive impact on a brand and its exposure.

In every risk lies opportunity. The risk is retail, entering the market is the opportunity. For the smart brands out there, will they be able to spot a gap in the market that the market has not yet spotted. How are they going to differentiate themselves, have a physical presence, and make it align with their overall business strategy.

That is for the brands to figure out.

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