GDR Innovation Researcher Harriet Cox visited Asics’ refurbished flagship on Regent Street to see how the sportswear brand has translated its new design approach to the British capital
Japanese sportswear brand Asics has launched its new flagship store on Regent Street to coincide with the IAAF World Athletics Championships starting at London’s Olympic stadium.
The new store is a first for the company, uniting all of its brands – Onitsuka Tiger, Haglöfs, Asics Tiger and Asics – under one roof. This is perhaps why it feels a more approachable iteration of the brand in comparison to the Asics pure play running lab concept on adjacent Oxford Street.
Whilst the new flagship store offers Asics’ usual gait analysis services, in stocking its other brands it also caters to a different set of customers welcoming those with other interests besides running. Adjusting the experience to make it more accessible to a wider audience creates the air of a more general lifestyle store, better suiting its position in Regent Street.
The concept –conceived by Brinkworth– was created to embody the ‘Sound Mind, Sound Body’ ethos of the brand, looking to empower customers with knowledge. The delivery of this customer-centric strategy is firmly focused on digital and in-store tech.
Before even entering the store customers can get a glimpse of the brand’s digital vision as two robotic arms dance in the window display. At the stores entrance, a kinetic LED light sculpture that dominates the ground floor is also visible.
The store features a lot of really interesting uses of digital screens and robots throughout. The standout feature is the way that automated processes complement the role of the store associate, while providing some memorable in-store theatre. This is seen most clearly through the highly-visible robotic stock room. Staff on the shop floor use screens to select styles for customers to try on before the robot delivers shoes to the shop floor via a helter skelter-style slide.
The first iteration of this new concept was launched in the brand’s Brussels flagship working with creative agency Green Room Amsterdam to deliver the digital content for the store. Green Room’s digital director, Andrew Bowyer, speaking of the Brussels store said: “The digital experience was designed to put the customer in control, empowering them to make well-informed purchase decisions – on their own terms – rather than have answers dictated to them. We also created moments for conversation and consultation to make it easier for customers to engage with store staff.”
“Through emotional journey mapping, we identified the need to remove friction and build customer confidence in the drop out points between stages of the customer journey,” adds Bowyer. “For example, first time purchasers needed help crossing the threshold from browsing to selecting, and researchers wanted the option to pick up their journey at home and at their own pace, ultimately enhancing the overall customer experience.”
Downstairs in the Regent Street store, a floor-to-ceiling digital display can be controlled via a tablet letting customers scroll through detailed product information while providing content from Asics’s global ambassadors.
Alongside the brand’s gait analysis services – which uses motion ID to capture posture and running styles – other nice touches in store include a complimentary juice bar. At the bar customers can select from a range of juices on an iPad, which are then dispensed from a nearby tap. There is also a bank of stadium seating and an in-house DJ booth so that customers can sit and enjoy their drink.
Whilst the store is an impressive sight to behold, the use of digital throughout is intended to support, rather than replace human staff. With plenty of staff still on hand, the technology frees them up to spend time with the customers, offering them the expert advice that has become synonymous with the brand.