Justin Small, Chief Strategy Officer here at The Bio Agency, wrote about how to create integrated places that build attachment between customers and stores.

Justin believes that in a fiercely competitive retail market, executing integrated places will become a key brand differentiator that will help retailers to gain a competitive advantage. Enhancing a holistic brand experience will be key, with a focus on digital-physical convergence rather than simply enhancing website UX or the in-store experience alone. Practices that can enable successful digital placemaking and physical-digital integration include creating an effective omnichannel strategy alongside using data and predictive analytics for personalisation. This will enable retailers to create a more holistic shopping proposition that seamlessly transition between the digital and physical worlds, building meaningful places that drive customer loyalty.

Why is this increasingly important? Customers’ expectations and demands are rising in line with constant technological change, but retailers are struggling to keep up. Mothercare and H&M are just two of many reporting a slow-down in sales recently. Retail – or at least the high street – is going through an existential crisis, with falling sales and 3.5 per cent year-on-year decline in footfall reported in December 2017 (Springboard, 2017).

Although retailers increasingly understand the importance of merging the digital and physical worlds, creating digital places and omnichannel experiences that bring customers back to their stores is still difficult. Integrating digital into retailers’ strategy is not about simply replacing traditional practices with the newest digital developments to create online-only or physical-only experiences. It's about ensuring that the transition between digital and physical is seamless. Justin notes that digital placemaking has a strong potential to facilitate that transition.

The key strength of placemaking lies in creating environments that people want to come back to. (…) Digital placemaking is based on the same principle. It’s the process of creating a personal and meaningful digital place – spanning both private and public digital realms – that delivers human value and communal identity through interactive digital actions.JUSTIN SMALL, CSO, THE BIO AGENCY

Justin believes the focus of retailers should be on developing an experience strategy that integrates digital and physical places. This is ‘integrated placemaking’; creating meaning by combining unique personal physical experiences with digital tools and data. If implemented correctly, it can create a strong ‘place attachment’ – a meaningful connection between a person and a place. Examples of successful digital placemaking include King’s Cross Granary Square’s app-enabled fountains, the TATE’s app with immersive storytelling capability, NIKE’s New York store with data-led personalised experiences, or Pavegen’s energy-generating paving slabs. But digital placemaking is not only applicable to digitisation of physical places. It can also be used to physicalise online stores, with Made.com’s lifestyle showrooms an excellent example of how to implement the concept successfully.

The diagram below gives an overview of our process to create a personal and meaningful digital place. It relies on delivering human value and communal identity through interactive digital actions that build place attachment by creating successful integrated places.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you to envision and execute integrated placemaking, please get in touch with us at: info@thebioagency.com 

Read the full story on 365 Retail and Retail Focus.

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