2015 marked a year in retail where brands focused in on merging the physical and digital experience to provide value to consumers. Gone are the days where retailers see their ecommerce experiences as a one-off platform or a tool to drive traffic to the stores. Retailers have adapted to the hyperconnected world by restructing organizational roles, allocating more money and resources to their mobile platforms, and switched from viewing digital marketing as an afterthought.
Shopping behaviors haven't fundamentally changed over the past few years, but rather technology has amplied already existing behaviors and consumer expectations are being noticed. There is no separation between an online-only consumer and an in-store consumer. The brands that are willing to recognize this and meet consumer demands are the ones that will gain in 2016.
Consumers have always wanted a sense of community and an engaging experience with the products they purchase. Digital tools don't take away this human need, but rather suppliment the physical world by creating better access through the digital world. One example is the new concept Starbucks Star Reserve store in central London. Our team recently visited the store located in Covent Garden to take notice on how Starbucks uses technology to create an exceptional real world experience. After rolling out its mobile ordering service, Starbucks is making another move to distinguish itself from other coffee shops in central London with its new store. The Star Reserve bar is the first of the chain’s European stores to be offering no less than five special brewing methods, and foods such as morning pastries, lunchtime salads, and evening sharing platters of cheese and meats, all prepared fresh in the store’s own micro kitchen. When you enter the main doors, uniformed waiting staff hold iPads and approach customers to take their order and payment at the same time.
Starbucks is trying to appeal to customers who feel like they know their coffee a bit better than the average consumer with five different brewing systems, including machines such as the Clover which appears to reverse the traditional French press technique by using a vacuum. There are also Reserve coffees available in limited and small batches from farms across the world with each batch of beans displayed for smelling, sampling, and a description of where the product came from.
The new Starbucks store is also notably more technologically inclined. Not only will it be supporting the new mobile and pay system, the more open-plan decor features arty images projected onto the walls, rather than standard pictures; the unchanging wall-mounted menus have been swapped out for digital screens that change from morning, to lunch, to evening as different fresh foods become available; powermat wireless charging is available across the store with support for all charging requirements from Apple to USB, as well as faster 100MB per second Wi-Fi.