As lockdowns throughout the world have eased, consumers have flocked to the high street in large numbers, and with cash to spend, looking to make physical connections. Whereas pre-pandemic we thought the future of retail lay with the large online conglomerates, post-Covid many brands are investing heavily in bricks and mortar.
Looking to merge the physical and digital experience, Gen Z and millennial favourite Glossier, which has previously existed purely online with a series of pop-up stores, has recently announced plans for permanent bricks and mortar stores across American and European markets. Similarly, Google has opened their first physical retail store in NY’s Chelsea while earlier this month the iconic La Samaritaine department store in Paris reopened after shutting their doors back in 2005.
The pandemic has made consumers much more digitally engaged and raised their expectations of the virtual experiences brands offer them. In turn, this has accelerated the shift to a new fluidity in retail where consumers move through physical and virtual worlds and where they value virtual relationships with brands as much as in-person contact. Going forward, brands need to invest and disrupt the ‘phygital’ experience if they are to play a part in the future of retail, both bricks and mortar and online.
FutureBrand has recently worked with LaFeltrinelli, one of the most iconic Italian publishing houses, to support them in defining the bookstore of the future. With LaFeltrinelli FutureBrand has designed a space which celebrates literature whilst offering new physical and digital experiences, reflecting the needs of a diverse audience with multiple needs and an advanced demand for developing phygital experiences. FutureBrand worked with LaFeltrinelli to develop a brand concept around ‘the energy of culture’ which LaFeltrinelli represents.
FutureBrand has created an open space, where the physical and digital journeys overlap. Of course the retail space stocked with books remains the central area of the space. However, there is also a coffee shop, an e-sports room, a reading area, a kids playground and many other experience areas that enhance the visitor's journey and allow for them to merge their digital and physical relationships with the brand. Innovation plays a leading role in the new concept, where technology and new ways of interacting are an integral part of the shopping experience.
If brands are to survive in the phygital world they need to embrace seamless omnichannel experiences which combine the physical and digital worlds as one. The power of digital should not be underestimated but in developing digital experiences we have neglected the opportunity to combine the digital with physical retail spaces.