Physical Stores as Content Creation Hubs

The ‘make or break’ 2020s for Retailers are already seeing a vigorously refreshed focus on how to get the most out of the physical store. One idea whose time has finally come is to make stores double as content creation hubs.

There’s a definite trend underway with an increasing number of stores giving over physical space to content creation, driven by a seemingly insatiable social media appetite for things retail -particularly fashionretail.  The idea is to extend the reach of physical stores by using in-store content creation zones to boost social media mentions and extend the brand community.

Boots new flagship store in London’s Covent Garden features a YouTube studio and an Instagram zone where customers can take pictures of their shopping items or conduct video makeovers. It’s a perfect tactic (or strategy, depending on your view) for added flagship-store-value.  Retailers around the world are inviting customers to explore products whilst broadcasting to their followers. Needless to say, those customers with the biggest followings should expect the most attractive invitations.

UK high street fashion brand French Connectionrecently launched their new concept store in Duke Street in London’s West End which has been very well received.  It features a nice artisan café, exclusive limited-edition product ranges and a ‘marketplace’ with a diverse selection of pick up items.

But to my mind the true innovative pull at Duke Street is what they’ve called ‘French Connection Studios’ a studio space within the store where an in-house team will regularly shoot digital and influencer content. French Connection Studios aims to be a lifestyle destination for brand fans.  In their words, it gives 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”.

Inspiring advocacy

While many stores have for a while featured ‘pop-up’ events, the idea of having a permanent dedicated space instore is new.  (That said, there have been some false starts – Sears in the US attempted something similar as long as 10 years back, but the maturity of social media wasn’t there to support it.)

There has been a huge buzz about Samsung’s new space at Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross, which is a hotbed of experiential retail innovation; its focus is on being a marketing space for the brand rather than on shifting lots of stock quickly.  It doesn’tfeature tills.  It doesfeature event spaces, gaming lounges, DJ booths, a digital graffiti wall, and personalisation bars where customers can design their own products. It also features a travel photography workshop.  This spirit of engagement, play and adventure is very much in the content creation space.

Given that the Far East remains generally ahead-of-the-global-curve in all things applied social media it’s no surprise that this has taken off there. Fashion and beauty storeVilla de Mûririn Seoul features a production studio for YouTube and social media content creators, extending the reach of the physical store.

Taostylein China features a booth where brand ambassadors, merchants and staff promote and sell products via livestreaming. Xia Yu, General Manager of Taostyle owner and operator Hangzhou Shunhong, said “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.  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.”

Building communities

Will the rise of these spaces within stores prove in the long term to be just another trend?  To be honest, my money is on them staying, and flourishing.  Three reasons for me thinking this:

The first is flat-out pragmatic: customers are alreadydoing all this on social media anyway, so why not slipstream their enthusiasm and energy?  Being able to ensure things like lighting conditions and backdrops are good (and, dare I say it, on brand) and in many cases providing the cameras for people to film with means you continue to associate your brand with higher quality content.

The second is financial: Investing in a content creation space has the potential to deliver extraordinary ROI.  After all, isn’t all this influencer social content essentially free marketing?  And with most retailers having invested so much into stores over time, this trend will make the physical store moreof a destination, not less.

The third is the vision thing. Video blogging (or whatever you want to call it) is the future, there’s no two ways about it.  So why not be on the right side of the future?  Why not be a 2020s leader?  Getting your brand ambassadors ever-more close to you can’t be a bad move.

As the 2020s get up to speed, there’s no doubt that a wide variety of retailers are using store space in fresh and innovative ways to drive the brand and personalised experience. Content creation hubs are just one of these initiatives, and when thinking about what we might call the ‘retailer-influencer-customer triangle’, it feels like a win-win-win.