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Retail strategy director

House of Retail 2023: boring retail is dead

For the second time around, I’ve had the honor to be the host at the event House of Retail, the event for the latest trends in physical retail. The tagline ‘The Future is Phygital’ is still very much alive, as e-commerce is losing its ‘e’ and becomes just commerce, and we have to understand the customer journey is never linear and continuously switching between online and offline, as keynote speaker Ian Scott stated. These were my three key takeouts from this edition.


Tech should enlighten the shopping experience, not your workload.

Retail influencer Ian Scott gave us a refreshing look on the progress of stores. He spoke about the new normal and other ridiculous ideas. To be short: there is no new normal, just normal normal. Shoppers never changed during COVID. Their habits were only put to a hold.

And those habits only change together with the changes of the general retail landscape where technology and social media play an increasing role. A shopper journey is no longer linear, but switches between social media to web shops, brand websites, physical stores, and their physical and digital touchpoints, back to Google, and then the web shop again. Consumers are not aware of omni-channel. People that visit your stores will take the route that suits them best. Where I love to call this phygital retail, Ian calls this symbiotic retail.

In his travels around the globe, Ian checks out hundreds of physical stores. He loves to see how the digital enhancements boost the shopping experiences of customers. It also can work the other way around. For instance, for NEXT. They’ve decided to keep 195 loss making stores open to support their online activities. If they did close these stores, they would have lost the opportunity to keep the brand alive in the shopping street ánd lose service and return locations for their online shops as well.

Striking was the message from Ian if we understand our customer as well as we think we do.  Technology should always service the customer. Always think from the mind of the customer. And yes, technology can help us strengthen our concept or brand, but just because you can use technology, doesn’t mean you should. Take the use of QR codes. It is investigated that only 3% will scan the code in the shopping street or in your store. Tech isn’t there to lighten your workload, but to enlighten the shopping experience of your customer. If you do it right, you notice that your staff even has to work harder.

And last but not least: Gen Z. I’ve managed to avoid AI in this post so far, but I will not manage to avoid Gen Z. Especially not seeing that Ian Scott was so very clear about Gen Z in his talk. Do we know who Gen Z really is? No! You cannot tell just by asking or knowing someone’s age. Every customer is different. If you are targeting generally, you are missing the point. It’s all about understanding your customer. Customer behavior is different at any age, gender, and location. Even the behavior of a specific customer can change during the week.


Ads are seven times more impactful when the place and time is right.

It’s tough to be a retailer. Retailers are struggling or even going bankrupt. Can retail media be a business booster or a lifeline for retailers? John Molendijk is co-founder of Streaem, and expert in the retail business model and explained the possibilities of retail media to the 100 retail professionals in the audience.

As digitalization brings new touchpoints for retailers, this also offers more opportunities for brands to connect with the marketing channels of a retailer. In 2022, 89 retailers with an HQ in Europe offered online retail media, and this number will be surpassing 100 in 2023. But opportunities are also increasing in and around the physical stores. Think about instore displays, hand scanners and displays just outside the store and in the shop window. This way, advertisers can share their message in the right place and perfect time, just before the customer does their purchase. It’s proven that ads are seven times more impactful among a receptive audience.

Retail media will grow exponentially in 2024 in Europe, where it’s already big in the US. For instance, Amazon’s retail media offering is already bigger than the advertising platform of YouTube. Media agencies are also recognizing retail media and are starting to handle the budgets of big brands. And the best thing is, retail media can be used in all phases of the sales funnel.

The challenge is to have the right resources and capabilities. Retailers must act like publishers. They need to organize their data and be able to have the technology (and data) in place. A lot of big organizations are siloed and do not have the budgets or have fragmented budgets.

Retail media is interesting for retailers that offer multi brands, have high volume (reach in volume of shoppers) and scale or niche reach. The first party data that retailers are sitting on is of great value to advertisers. If you can give good insights in your clients to brands, you have a good retail media network. It’s about making impact with the right numbers.


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75% of buyer decisions are made emotionally.

Heidi Kriz, architect, designer and ‘POS doctor’ took the audience on a journey through the five senses. As an experienced designer (she worked for Nike, Apple, and Levi’s for instance), she loves to travel around the world to visit stores and experience different retail concepts.

We base 75% of our buying decisions on emotions that are triggered by our five senses. The sense of sight is the most important one. Especially with lighting, you can call upon every emotion. The second most important is the sense of touch. This maybe is not what you expect, but Heidi gave the example of the tactile of the floor that is been used in a store and how that feels on your feet when you step into the store.

The sense of smell is the only one of the five senses that is directly connected to the brain. The human nose can perceive and distinguish more than 10,000 aromas. You can trigger different feelings in different spaces using scents. Some scents make you feel safe, what for instance suits a hotel lobby very good. Taste can trigger the same feeling and emotion but is harder to execute in retail or hospitality locations. The last sense is of course music. Music can boost a brand’s performance. From brand image perception to message retention and actual purchasing behavior in-store, music is known to have a big influence. Did you know that we slow our pace if the music we hear has a slower rhythm? That way, dwell time is increased, what makes ‘sense’.

This year’s edition of House of Retail was closed with Ian Scott quoting Cathy Sparks, Vice President of Nike’s global stores. And I think that wrapped up the event perfectly:

“Traditional retail is going to struggle, at Nike what we talk a lot about is that retail is not dead, but boring retail is dead.”


Want to reminisce about this great edition of House of Retail? Check out the aftermovie.