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Think BR: Silent shopping - the sound of till-less stores

Burberry's flagship Regent Street store shows that innovative brands can use technology to truly enhance the customer journey, writes Jason Cromack, chief executive officer, Lateral Group.

Jason Cromack, chief executive officer, Lateral Group

Jason Cromack, chief executive officer, Lateral Group

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Burberry’s move to open a flagship store in the heart of Regent Street caused a stir in the retail world due to more than just the company’s heritage as a leading UK brand. It was the decision to remove tills from the store - which was billed as a physical interpretation of its website - that really set tongues wagging.

Moves like this are likely to mark a seismic shift in the way retailers interact with consumers; how they communicate with them will need to alter significantly as a result.

What really sets Burberry’s activation apart from other retail brands is that it has elevated the digital shopping experience to more than just self-service. It incorporates iPads and contactless payments in the name of creating a seamless 'virtual’ experience that is high-end, sophisticated and futuristic.

By making full use of mobile, Burberry and other brands give themselves the opportunity to take their products to the consumer and reach them on the move. Any digital activation needs to be made in the context of the user’s personal experience, with the ultimate aim of meeting their expectations.

This comes from a human imperative that dictates that we are predisposed to resist change but when it comes to brand association - being recognised as leading from the front is a huge incentive.

Add to this the importance of perception to the established luxury players how this can attract the brand’s high-end target consumer who are renowned for being early adopters, and the reason for taking this dramatic leap is obvious.

While self-service tills have become a standard, there still remains a certain degree of skepticism towards these devices in supermarkets. A TNS survey earlier this year showed that two-thirds of shoppers still believe that these checkouts have not improved their browsing experience.

Ultimately, it is the user’s browsing experience which remains the pivotal element. The introduction of new technologies to help streamline the customer’s in-store journey brings the benefit of a more convenient experience and underlines a company’s ambition to position itself as a technologically-advanced retailer.

However, Burberry, and any brand that has similar plans in the pipeline, needs to be aware of the effect it has on the customer’s emotional connection with the brand, especially with those accustomed to a more traditional retail experience.

The key to success here is integrating a clear and coherent message across all channels. If a consumer is making a purchase through a mobile device then that interface becomes an extension of their brand experience. 

This means everything from the ease with which they make the purchase to the design and sentiment of the landing page that greets them needs to be integrated effectively. 

Burberry has recognised the importance of integrating the digital and physical shopping experience by positioning its till-less stores as an extension of the online experience.

This can be achieved with a balance between convenience and the human side of the business; as a result, only by implementing an integrated marketing strategy that runs across all touch points can a brand truly improve the consumer’s retail experience. 

By doing this, brands will also be able to steal a march on their competitors in the pursuit of data that can help build highly-targeted ad campaigns that achieve the cut-through required. If the retail industry is able to build a complete picture of the consumer and their behaviours then they can truly create effective campaigns. 

Burberry should be applauded for being brave enough to take this step. By establishing the correct strategy and ensuring that it fits with the overall message of the company, a brand can truly use technology to enhance the customer retail journey.

Jason Cromack, chief executive officer, Lateral Group


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