Simon Stacey joined Deloitte Digital this year as its Spatial and Brand Experience Director. Simon brings over 25 years’ experience in aligning the physical and digital brands around the customer journey, communicating brand strategy and creating customer brand experiences.
Column: Simon Stacey
My background is firmly rooted in retail environments across all sectors. I’ve worked with Vodafone, Amazon, Tesco, Christian Louboutin as well as in the health and beauty sector. My core passion is looking at the retail experience with the brand and customer at its heart. The two are inseparable. Everyone’s talking about the customer experience and that’s obviously really important, but just as important is how the brand uniquely relates to that customer.
In other words it’s not enough to be brilliant — making the retail experience, joyful and easy — it’s about using the retail environment, communications, service, design, and digital engagement to make a difference from a brand perspective.
That’s my job: to go beyond the brilliant and make retail work for the brand, integrating the physical environment, the digital environment and, of course, the people.
DO SHOPPING, GO SHOPPING
There’s a positive conflict between customers who want to do shopping — simple and hassle free; and for those going shopping — enjoying a much more immersive experience. Digital has a place in getting the most out of both those approaches.
Christian Louboutin: A great example of a customer going shopping is in the world of luxury brands — no one pops out to Gucci or Prada because they have to. Not so long ago, Burberry put digital front and centre of its flagship store in London, to much acclaim. Undoubtedly, there was an amazing use of technology at that Regent Street outlet. One thing that I would question is the use of digital on the micro level. Luxury products are about craftsmanship and the customer’s relationship with the product. Digital should be layered behind and beside the product rather than over the top; not providing a barrier to that relationship. I think that’s wrong.
My work with Christian Louboutin in the UK sought to deliver theatre to the retail experience and reinforce the brand. Undoubtedly, customers knew the brand but may not have been aware of the full brand story.
It was an example of deploying digital in the right place in the right time for the right reason.
Tesco: Conversely, Tesco (the big UK supermarket brand) provides a case in point of somewhere people do shopping.
Post the GFC, Tesco invested heavily in reshaping its future. I worked with Tesco to take its ‘Click & Collect’ model and build bricks and mortar retail that would raise the Tesco brand from being bland and transactional to one that provides a positive experience for its customers.
Once people are in the store, having ordered the groceries and essentials online, we created a store that offered product collections that were inspiring to interact with. Alternatively, if you didn’t want to ‘walk the aisles’ you could sit at a Tesco cafés or ‘mini lounge’ and explore the curated collections, choose your product and pick up your order on the way out. It was a more tactile experience and removed from the mundane.
Yes, digital in a ‘go shopping’ retail environment needs to make the experience easy and fuss-free but it can do more to inspire. Tesco went beyond expectations to create great curated merchandise product stories, as well as making it easy to order a pint of milk.
THREE MONTH ROI
When I left the UK 18 months ago, retail was in the midst of an identity crisis. The pace of change is just so quick, retailers simply didn’t know what to do. Retail used to talk about three-year plans for ROI, while now three months is more realistic.
Clearly, store design needs to be more flexible and resettable. Retail has understood this imperative for years. Just look at the shopfront window. Now the whole store is a brand window, and needs constant reinvention and innovation. The store needs to bring the brand to life. Use the store to market test products, co-create new things with customers and add theatre. This is the new way of retailing.
Everyone’s talking about the customer experience … but just as important is how the brand uniquely relates to that customer.
When it comes to the use of digital in this brave new world, it’s much more than putting kiosks in the store, it’s about asking ‘where can digital help enhance the customer experience?’ and, crucially, giving staff the tools to deliver a better service experience. They’re the fundamental areas of opportunity.
My advice would be to not separate the use of digital and store design — the two are inseparable.
Retail shopfitters used to talk about fixtures and fittings — inferring something permanent, heavy and immovable. We need to reframe the way we think about designing, using frames and stages — implying a much lighter, more fluid and versatile way of forming spaces.
By being agile, we get to test and learn. If something isn’t working, we can move it. Being lighter and more flexible should be more cost effective as well. Put those savings into the content and the brand stories rather than fixtures and fittings.
Digital strategy is the business strategy, the two aren’t divorced. And the business strategy is about the brand and taking the brand out to the customers. The store is your chance to tell the brand story. In fact, it’s more than storytelling it’s story doing — it’s getting your customers involved with and invested in your brand.