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Nathalie Depetro, Director of Mapic Image: Mapic

Who Is the Most Innovative of Them All?

The retail industry is going through seismic change, fueled by changes in demographics, consumer behavior and – perhaps most notably – technological advancements. Recent figures show that e-commerce currently makes up one-tenth of total retail sales worldwide, and this number is set to increase over the years to come.

By Nathalie Depetro

For the UK only, this number is close to hitting 20 percent – the highest in the world – and this casts a long shadow on retailers that solely operate brick-and-mortar stores, for example, Primark. Brick-and-mortar retail has been significantly affected by this online trend and will undoubtedly continue to evolve as digital players are likely to gain even more market share.

As retail real estate professionals, we are being inundated with news of CVAs and store closures coming from the UK and other parts of Europe, and it would be easy to think that a fringe of the industry is on the verge of destruction. The fact of the matter is, however, that our industry is working hard to embrace the changes it is facing. Rather than succumbing to pressure, an increasing number of retailers and shopping center developers are choosing to adapt and develop in order to stay relevant to their customers. An absolutely essential part of this is innovation – notably, digital innovation.

We have seen numerous examples of the amalgamation of physical and digital, and the lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred (hashtag #phygital is trending on Twitter). With omnichannel being the word on everyone’s lips, physical retailers are increasingly investing in their online channels – but, importantly, it goes both ways, with many previously online-exclusive companies starting to open brick-and-mortar stores. Examples of this include UK-based fashion retailer Missguided as well as American brands, such as Glossier and Everlane.

In terms of physical retail, one could quite rightly say that technology is all around as retailers are increasingly incorporating innovative technology, such as augmented reality, into their stores. Some examples of this trend include Lacoste and Zara, both of which have launched apps offering customers a virtual “try before you buy” option. Zara has also recently introduced a new store concept at the iconic Westfield Stratford City, located in East London, including interactive mirrors that can detect a garment held by the customer and make outfit suggestions based on it.

One interesting aspect of the merger between physical and digital is that, in an increasingly digital world, consumers crave emotional engagement. When Westfield recently unveiled its vision for the future of retail, known as ‘Destination 2028’ – a concept that heavily incorporates different digital initiatives, for example, tech-enabled ‘Extra-perience’, which includes magic mirrors and personalized recommendations based on eye-scanning – it was interesting to see that the concept was driven, not by technology, but by social interaction and community.

From November 14 to 16, the collective retail real estate industry will head to Cannes for the 24th edition of Mapic, and, as organizers of this leading retail property event, we need to be at the forefront of picking up new trends in retail space.

The theme for this year’s conference – “Transforming Reality: Physical in the Age of Digital” – has been selected as a means of capturing the new retail paradigm, and it will feature an extensive program including over 100 speakers, with panel sessions focusing on topics such as the merging of online and office, innovation as a key component of retail transformation, and customer experience.

In addition, the conference will offer endless networking opportunities and will showcase state-of-the-art retail concepts. At the end of this year’s conference, we may be able to answer the age-old question: Who is the most innovative of them all?


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