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Retail & Brand Experience

Asia: A Beacon of Innovation to Inspire UK Retailers

As part of our Special Feature on Retail & Brand Experience, Tim Nash, Head of IGNITE at IPOS, takes some time out to discuss that, in the last four years, physical and digital have begun to merge and learn from one another, combining the best of both worlds to create a rich experience for the consumer.

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Tim Nash, Head of IGNITE at IPOS

There is no doubt that UK retailers are still battling with the after effects of the pandemic, navigating an increasing demand for digital innovation and the ongoing decline of the traditional high street. In the early days of this downward trend, experts predicted a complete shift towards fully immersive digital worlds and warned that physical retail would cease to exist completely. However, the reality is altogether different.

Retailers in Asia are doing this incredibly well, creating a deep retail and brand experience that connects with consumers on a personal level. In this article, we will consider what is working well, exploring some examples from global brands and looking at the lessons that UK retailers can learn.

A relentless pursuit of creativity
Asia stands as a beacon of innovation and creativity, reshaping the very essence of what a retail space is. Here, brands don’t just sell products; they craft immersive narratives that captivate consumers and transcend the boundaries of traditional retail. Stores are no longer just for selling – they’ve become the perfect hub for transforming intangible digital concepts into real-life experiences. Picture socially shareable installations that beckon engagement, weaving a narrative across multiple touchpoints that extend far beyond mere transactions. This approach resonates with consumers on a much deeper level than simply making a transaction in the traditional sense, taking them on a journey.

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Burberry. Popup Shop, South Korea.

The best examples of this are not only seen online but also witnessed in real life, giving consumers a reason to return to the high street and engage with brands in person. The brands have created a narrative that guides their audience through digital and physical touch points, leading them to connect the dots and engage with the brand on a deeper level. In contrast to the UK and other European markets, Asia’s approach to brand activations and pop-up experiences is characterised by a relentless pursuit of creativity, novelty and consumer engagement. Cities like Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai emerge as epicentres of innovation, where ‘out-of-the-box’ pop-up shops and immersive brand activations redefine the retail experience.

A recent trends report from Savills adds weight to this, stating: “Driven both by necessity and consumer demand, non-traditional formats are emerging. Many of these projects stem from urban rejuvenation initiatives, where physical constraints such as building preservation, plot size and height restrictions contribute to unique architectural renderings, creating distinctive aesthetic spaces and unparalleled experiences.”

Reimagining the retail landscape
Louis Vuitton is a prime example of the new approach being handled well, delivering excellent results. Across Asia, the brand has orchestrated a symphony of innovation with its spellbinding pop-up installations. From interactive art exhibits to collaboration-infused showcases, each space is a testament to luxury intertwined with entertainment, inviting consumers to step into a world where the brand’s story unfolds before their eyes.

And then there’s Burberry, mastering the art of the unexpected in pop-up spaces across Asia. With every unveiling of limited-edition collections and exclusive products, Burberry infuses elements of surprise and discovery, solidifying its reputation as a trendsetting force in the fashion world.

Meanwhile, Diesel makes waves with its daring pop-up concepts, embracing street culture and youth-oriented design to appeal to a diverse audience. Through edgy installations and interactive experiences, Diesel creates vibrant hubs of creativity that foster a sense of community and belonging among its customers.

Fresh Beauty and Gentle Monster are no exception, reimagining the retail landscape in Asia with their innovative approaches. Fresh Beauty’s personalised skincare consultations and immersive product demonstrations redefine beauty shopping, while Gentle Monster’s spaces double as interactive art installations, showcasing a real commitment to innovation and design.

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Fresh Beauty. Sensorial Garden Voyage, China.

Guiding principles
For UK brands eager to emulate this success, three key principles emerge. Firstly, embrace creativity and innovation. Break free from the confines of conventional retail formats. Think beyond the ordinary and create installations that surprise and delight, forging a deeper emotional connection with consumers.

Next, foster community and engagement. Build a sense of belonging around your brand by offering interactive experiences and personalised services. Encourage social sharing to amplify the reach of your brand activations and spark excitement both online and offline.
Lastly, create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Harness the power of limited time offers and exclusive collaborations to drive foot traffic and ignite excitement around your pop-up spaces. By instilling a sense of urgency and exclusivity, you can inspire consumers to act swiftly and make a lasting impression.

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Gentle Monster. Jentle Salon, Singapore.

Abundant benefits
The benefits of mastering brand activations and pop-up experiences are abundant. Not only do they create memorable moments that resonate with consumers, but they also elevate brand awareness, foster customer loyalty and continue a wider narrative that extends far beyond the confines of a traditional store.

It’s truly exciting to witness the recent wave of brand activations breaking free from the confines of traditional transactional methods. What stands out is how brands are boldly venturing beyond the norm, seeking to captivate consumers through meaningful interactions and memorable experiences. This shift isn’t just about selling a product; it’s about creating connections that resonate on a profound emotional level. By immersing their audience in tailored experiences and going beyond mere transactions, these brands are tapping into an entirely new realm of emotions, forging bonds that endure far beyond the initial purchase.

Looking ahead, the future of retail in Asia promises to be even more immersive and technologically advanced. Virtual reality, augmented reality and immersive storytelling will take centre stage, offering UK brands an array of opportunities to engage consumers in thrilling and unforgettable ways. By staying ahead of these emerging trends and embracing the core principles of creativity, engagement and exclusivity, UK brands can really carve out their place in an ever-evolving retail landscape.

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