We new concept is a pared-back environment featuring raw, clean materials to offset the rich and digital content of the stores.
All elements of the concept, from the interior environment and digital content to instore communications and tone of voice, were fine-tuned inthe new design.
The first of six new Argos digital concept stores opened at 189 Old St in London in the lead up to Christmas, with further London stores at Marble Arch, Old Kent Rd, and Chancery Lane. Others to boast the new fitout are at Colchester and Dunfermline.
The London stores are remodels of existing stores, while Colchester and Dunfermline are new store locations.
The stores will range in size from 210sqm to 510sqm.
The new stores have a fresh and modern look. They offer a new 60 second ‘Fast Track’ collection service for customers purchasing goods online or via mobile devices.
Customers shopping in store will use iPads, with expanded shopping applications such as product videos and customer reviews, or personal mobile devices via free instore WiFi, rather than Argos’ classic laminated catalogues, pencils and stock checker machines.
Catalogues are not disappearing in the near term; they will still be available to collect instore or as shopping aides in the newly designed customer service area.
Digital display screens will replace static sales literature and paper posters, and together with flexible product displays will offer ways to inspire customers and support suppliers.
With customers increasingly using digital channels for shopping and transacting, more Argos retail assistants can help customers on the sales floor to navigate digital resources and make the right purchase decision.
Behind the scenes, the new London-based digital concept stores will also trial Argos’ new hub and spoke distribution model.
The larger ‘hub’ store will stock an expanded range of around 20,000 lines, and run routes to deliver products in a van to its smaller ‘spoke’ stores.
This will provide all stores with either immediate, same day, or next day access to an expanded range of products.
The store frontage will elevate the red Argos branding to replace the current Argos blue for maximum high street impact.
Window displays of digital screens can be changed centrally to showcase seasonal and category promotions, replacing static paper posters.
On arrival, customers are greeted by the digital ‘welcome wall’ where store staff are introduced. Short films of store employees add personality to each store and initiate a personal connection between the staff and the customer.
The footage is combined with other local messaging, such as weather or social media activity and links the store back to its wider community.
Once instore there are two routes. Fast Track offers the promise that you can buy online, at home, or on the move, and collect your item in store with a reduced queue time. Around one third of customers place online reservations and come instore to pick up their purchases.
For the first time , Argos will offer customers the opportunity to pay for their orders online. These customers will be able to collect their purchase in 60 seconds at designated Fast Track collection podiums in the new stores.
For those shopping instore, customers can visit a single stop, the ‘Pay and Collect’ podiums, to complete their transaction. Around 50 per cent of Argos customers pay and collect instore. Tables of iPad tablets replace the laminated catalogue, electronic stock checkers, pencils and paper slips, enabling customers to browse across the full 30,000 product range, watch product videos and read reviews, check stock, and add items to the digital shopping trolley.
Argos are not removing catalogues from the store, since some customers may be more comfortable using them for their shopping, however, they will be placed on the customer service desk, together with an iPad, so that staff can assist these customers in becoming more comfortable with the enhanced shopping options of digital technology.
While Argos stores are now primarily for product collection, store displays will serve two important purposes – creating customer inspiration and providing suppliers with instore marketing opportunities.
New inspirational shop floor displays, and shop within a shop displays, will showcase specific ranges such as toys, consumer electronics and jewellery, or support events with suppliers such as Dyson or Samsung.
These displays can be changed to reflect the latest promotions and events being driven by the business and suppliers.
Large wall mounted digital screens that will update the latest price promotions, brand messages, and customer information via moving images have replaced static paper based promotional material.
Controlled centrally, the digital screens will also enable Argos to merchandise product and support promotions more flexibly and regularly in response to seasonal campaigns, supplier and local events, and even local weather conditions.
They can also be used in conjunction with product displays to add impact.
As the digital concept store is more self servicing, it frees up staff to deliver more proactive customer service on the sales floor.
Store colleagues will have tablets, loaded with apps, to enable them to help customers with questions, guide them through their new digital purchase and assist with product information, to ensure the customer leaves with everything they want, at the speed they want.
This article first appeared in Inside Retail Magazine’s February/March 2014 issue.