Innovation researcher Harriet Cox looks at how retailers are using in-store content creation zones to boost social media mentions, build community and extend the reach of their physical stores.
Earlier this month I went to take a look at the new concept store from UK high street fashion brand French Connection. Dubbed French Connection Studios the store aims to be a lifestyle destination for fans of the brand stocking womenswear, menswear, homeware and fragrance. A couple of nice touches include a cafe, a ‘marketplace’ offering a wide selection of pick up items including books, magazines and cards and limited-edition product ranges that are exclusive to the store.
But the store’s main point of difference is that it features a studio space with a photography studio, where the in-house team will shoot digital and influencer content. The idea is that it will give customers the opportunity to “browse the store, whilst also getting a glimpse behind the scenes of a fashion brand and to see the latest collection, before this launches in-store”.
In recent months, at GDR we have noticed more and more stores giving over physical retail space to content creation and in some cases even inviting customers to be a part of it. In this blog, I’m going to highlight a few of my favourite recent examples.
Enabling content creation
Last month I visited the new Boots Store in London’s Covent Garden. As well as instilling a growing focus on health and wellbeing, the brand has installed a YouTube studio and an Instagram zone that customers can use to take pictures of their purchases or conduct video makeovers.
These ‘studios’ are not only a way to deliver a better shopping experience by facilitating existing customer behaviours, they are also a way for the brand to leverage brand ambassadors and their social media followings. With a recent survey from the Lego Group reporting that a third of young Britons and Americans want to be vloggers when they grow up, it seems apt that brands are giving over retail space to foster social media impressions, influencer content and likes. The lighting conditions and backdrops also ensure a relatively high standard of production, so the brand’s products come across in the best way.
Although this is not a new idea – back in 2010 Sears explored and then abandoned the idea of an in-store content creation studio with its ‘Craftsman’ experience which livestreamed in-store demos and guest interviews – it seems that now, with the prevalence of social media and mobile, the idea is finding renewed relevance in consumers’ lives.
Retailers around the world are incorporating these experiences into their flagship locations and inviting customers (especially those with a large following) to trial, play and explore product ranges whilst broadcasting to their followers.
Korean beauty brand Villa de Mûrir is one that focuses on content creation in its first physical store in Seoul. Describing itself as a two-storey pink “beauty pairing community” the store stocks a mix of own brand products and select beauty brands, with a dedicated space for social media content creation.
Aimed at Korean social media savvy female millennials, the store is divided into four distinct areas. On the ground floor is the Beauty Shop and the Open Studio, a production studio for YouTube and social media content creators. On the second floor is an area for beauty treatments and, further extending the community feel, a café.
Extending the reach of the store
Another brand encouraging in-store content creation is the fashion-focused Taostyle store from Alibaba’s Taobao. The tech-enhanced space, mostly made up of digital screens, also features a booth where livestreamers, merchants and Taostyle staff promote and sell their products via livestreaming. In this way it mimics the popular ShopShops platform, which is being used by hundreds of retailers globally. “We don’t just want to open a traditional shop to sell clothes. We want to explore a new way of merging online with offline,” said Xia Yu, the general manager of Hangzhou Shunhong, which operates Taostyle. “For us, business doesn’t stop when the mall closes. Using livestreams, we’re able to interact with consumers all day, especially between 8pm and 2am when young people are most actively shopping online.”
Whether these content studios actually get used as the brands intend remains to be seen. But ultimately, by providing customers with a space to discuss the brand, build community and create a following around its products, they make the physical store more of a destination. They connect the store to customers’ online lives, allowing brands to tap into shoppers’ social media followings and reach potential new audiences without the need for additional marketing spend.