Digital retailing behind the sizzle

Topshop, windows, digital, VMAll the young dudes
Carry the news
Boogaloo dudes
Carry the news

David Bowie 

Ok, to all my fellow retail geeks, CEOs, board members and fellow retail followers, let’s admit it, we can’t help but love the sleek lines and feel of a well mounted iPad instore, or that ever pervading beacon staring with cool intent at our every movement.

Love or hate it, the instore digital experience continues to capture our imagination. Moving seamlessly between the physical and digital, our every touch, comment and enquiry gathered by forces way greater than us, succumbing to the great theatre that truly interactive digital in a retail shop brings.

And yet, at the risk of appearing to be a heretic, may I simply ask what is the relationship between this interactive retail experience in store and average sales, or items per sale or conversion into shoppers or any other retail metric that drives the actual retail sales line within that physical space?

After all, could you imagine the conversation between a retailer and their landlord that starts with “struggling to pay the rent this month, however our customer value proposition is increasing!” – OK, now I am being frivolous, or am I?

Now the distinction is that I am not, for a moment, talking about the omnichannel or ecosystem that all retailers need to engage in and the very important role of digital in building the retailers branded community. Rather just the instore component and its relationship to driving the short term number.

Are Telstra, Mimco or others, in doing such ground breaking work in their instore digital offer, really concerning themselves with the retail instore metrics in driving sales and margin, or simply more concerned with amortising their investment into brand and marketing?

Vikki from our Global Retail Insights team recently returned from working with our global partners in London and reported numerous retailers in the fashion capital with failing digital technology in stores, one of the most surprising being the Burberry Digital Flagship on Regent Street.

Once celebrated for being a ‘digital leader’ and trailblazer for omni-strategy, the Digital Flagship certainly didn’t live up to expectations, with store staff being completely unaware of some of the tech embedded in the store experience, let alone with any knowledge of how to use it.

There was no evidence of how this instore digital offer was benefitting the process of up-selling or instore metrics, rather seen as a one-off use of digital technology purely to generate positive PR upon store launch.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to highlight to retail teams the importance of investment into brand and marketing, and cannot resist playing with an interactive mirror in a store, but when building a ‘fit’ sustainable store strategy, let us not get blinded by the beacons.

Getting back to the basics, remembering all the old classics of the 4 P’s and keeping instore metrics and driving sales at the core of a business, will build your business into not only a ‘fit’ retailer, but position your business to be ‘fit for sale’.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group and can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or


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