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What are 'Digital Bricks' and why should you care?

Touted as a trend that will grow enormously in 2022, ‘Digital bricks’ refers to physical stores with technology at their very core, just like last week’s Aldi Shop&Go concept. And if our Linked In survey was anything to go by most of you have a real appetite for them.

A massive 67% welcomed 'Just Walk Out' technology, so you don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of queuing at the checkout. Echoing Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) research that indicated 89% of customers are interested in using more technology in-store.

Amazon is committed to building locally with ‘Digital Bricks’. Alongside its Amazon Fresh till-free grocery chain, the online giant launched the Amazon 4-Star store concept at Bluewater in October with a second in White City one month later. It offers shoppers a range of products that are either best sellers, trending on the website or boasting a high customer rating. More online brands are set to follow in 2022, with Netflix & TikTok opening physical stores in 2021.

So what’s driving this? Amazon said: “Customers in the US have told us they love shopping a store where they can discover and learn about highly rated products, enjoy convenient features such as online pickup and returns, and test drive devices, and we are excited to bring this concept to the UK.”

But there’s also talk a purely online marketplace may be approaching the moment Department Stores reached in the 1990s and is running out of organic growth. With gloomy prospects and low margins many players are looking at non-organic strategies for growth which historically comes before a crash or consolidation. Is this history repeating itself?

‘Digital Bricks’ are a hot topic in retail. “Retailers need to think about their physical and their online presence as one, rather than as two separate entities,” says Kate Orwin, UK Leasing Director at URW “The line between the two is increasingly blurred in the minds of the end consumer. Retailers should also consider the power, from a marketing perspective, that a physical store can offer.” Wise words Kate.

As We Are Acuity have said before, lockdown made shoppers long to be in-store: research found 45% of consumers admitted to missing touching and trying on products. The truth is consumers now want blended retail. The convenience and fast-paced benefits of online, combined with the physical experiences only a store can offer.

As cutting-edge technology and in-person moments combine to rebuild the High Street of the future, retailers should leverage their local presence. Matching consumer expectations in store prioritising the convenience of self-checkout, in-app purchasing, kerb-side pickup, online purchase/in-store pickups, alongside those special physical moments, and local experiences. Those who dominate retail over the next decade and beyond, will build their success from local digital bricks starting now. We are ready, are you?

#savelocalretail #localmarketing #retailermarketing

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