The future of the high street will see retailers become “brand ambassadors” that use emotional intelligence and experiences to connect with consumers, a new study backed by the owners of Milton Keynes shopping centre has found.
The owners of Centre:MK, Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper, said that by the middle of the next decade shopping centres will be redesigned as providers of “novel and inspiring experiences” rather than simply places to purchase items.
Centre:MK’s tenants include John Lewis, House of Fraser, Mothercare, River Island, Quiz and TK Maxx.
The report identified three areas of growth: community builders- retail spaces that connect like-minded shoppers through events and services; Hero-hunters- retail spaces that are trustworthy and demonstrate an enhanced level of understanding and care for the surrounding community; and Service Synergists- retail staff will become brand ambassadors by creating deeper, trusted connections with consumers.
Ed Sellick, director of asset management at Hermes Investment Management, said: “The way consumers use retail has changed. What is important from a consumer point of view are one to one sessions that didn’t exist apart from in travel agents five years ago. We are finding people come to get the full service.”
According to Sellick, retailers will begin to assess not just what a shop fit looks like when taking on a store, but also how the space will interact with consumers, and what types of events can be held within it to drive footfall.
Retailers are also expected to track the popularity of their goods online which will inform their estate choices.
Sellick adds: “The White Company and Jigsaw chose our centre because they saw a lot of their online sales were coming from our area but they weren’t represented and they wanted a physical manifestation of their offer.”
Kathryn Bishop, deputy foresight editor at consultancy The Future Laboratory and author of the report, said: “Answering tomorrow’s consumer desire for a sense of belonging from the retail spaces they visit, malls will become Community Builders through adaptable interiors that support programming and cultural events. They will also become Hero retail destinations that are aware and supportive of the local culture and causes. And, as Service Synergists, future retail destinations must provide emotionally-intelligent staff that are confident, cognizant and able to support shoppers no matter their needs or requirement during their visit.”