Can you future-proof the Retail Destination experience?

Can you future-proof the Retail Destination experience?

21 May 2019

Drew Burrow, Business Development Manager at ADI, shares first-hand insight into how retail destinations can evolve and innovate in a challenging market – with contributions from intu and Axiom Brand Playground 



The current situation in the retail market is one of polarisation and radical change: shopping habits and consumer behaviour have evolved beyond compare, while some of the major players in retail hit the headlines and profit-warnings abound.

So, what can be done to successfully adapt and transform retail venues to stay relevant in a digital and rapidly-changing landscape? When looking at the shopping centre sector in particular it’s generally agreed that existing venues need to evolve quickly – and some have already begun. Whilst different theories and plans abound, it seems that pretty much everyone agrees on the need to shift the balance away from relying on the retail offering and traditional anchor tenants; instead many centres are beginning to cultivate a strong leisure, entertainment and F&B mix that’s part of a genuine ‘destination experience’. Let’s be clear, physical retail and shopping centres aren’t dead, but they need to innovate to survive for the future. 

Customers are changing – they don’t just Buy Stuff, they Do Stuff!

Undoubtedly there’s a growing consumer expectation for something new and exciting that makes a visit to the local shopping centre more appealing than purchasing online. No longer just places to ‘buy stuff’, but destination day-outs to ‘do stuff’, venues can tap into the growing experience economy by catering to an audience that are increasingly choosing leisure activities over shopping. Recent research from Barclaycard reveals that more than half of consumers would rather spend on a good experience than material possessions*, supported by the fact that the leisure sector is growing twice as fast as the retail market and worth an estimated £129bn in the UK.

Venues that deliver unique and exclusive experiences and interactive live events are succeeding in making visits memorable, and doing their upmost to keep customers coming back for more, week in, week out. intu are huge advocates of this approach, with Roger Binks, intu Customer Experience Director commenting, “intu’s strategy is a destination beyond retailers; we’re much more than a collection of shops and customer interactions take place both inside and outside of the physical stores. Around 50% of customers come to shop, but the other 50% visit for something else: eating, socialising, live events and new experiences.”


* Barclaycard – experience economy report 15th Oct 2018

Watch our Future Retail Destination video here 


tool for evolution - The role of LED


ADI are looking at the changing face of retail from the view point of an industry supplier; we’ve worked with over 30 retailers and shopping centres to create some incredible LED solutions. Many of the screens are used exclusively for digital out of home media and installed in 16:9 format, but we know its value as a technology stretches far beyond advertising, and we need to challenge those traditional industry perceptions to maximise the tangible benefits. We’re championing the idea that LED offers huge opportunities for venues that want to innovate, and indeed future-proof the customer experience in very uncertain times. 

Used at scale, LED can be a truly transformative technology; a fabric that can wrap vast exterior facades and bring them to life, reinventing spaces with creative and unusual LED platforms and allowing visitors to be ‘immersed’ into unique experiences that change throughout the day, week or year – and are exciting enough to share socially. With the ability to change content instantly, LED can importantly be used to achieve a balance of both experiential and commercial objectives.

A considered creative content strategy

Technology is of course only a part of the answer. This vision can only truly be realised as part of a wider creative content strategy. It’s important that venue owners create, invest in and – most importantly – commit to a long-term creative plan that puts great content front and centre to ensure lasting customer interest and retention.

The Future is NOW

This isn’t some crazy unrealistic vision that can never happen – it’s already happening. Globally, there are a growing number of retail destinations demonstrating spectacular, creative displays that are attracting increased footfall and dwell time. 

By offering carefully curated and memorable ‘Instagram’ moments they’re giving consumers a flagship experience, and one that evolves on every visit. Whilst a number of UK centres are testing the water, it’s fair to say the domestic industry is still getting to grips with the possibilities LED can bring. 

An ambitious outlier is undoubtedly Axiom Brand Playground. The much anticipated out of town retail destination off the M62 promises a state-of-the-art venue that will be a multi-sensory and multi-channel experience. Offering the UK’s first purpose-built playground for desirable brands, Axiom will integrate cutting-edge LED and digital signage across the interior and exterior, understanding its ability to deliver emotively engaging environments at scale.

Philip Lunn, Managing Director of Lateral Property Group, Axiom Brand Playground’s developer, comments, “Retail is evolving at an ever-faster pace and we’re designing for the future. We plan on using LED in the very fabric of the building since it allows us to continually transform the ambience and brand storytelling right across the venue. With LED screens that aren’t simply 16:9 format we can be outrageously creative and artistic in the content displayed, but just as easily deliver an incredibly high impact platform for the latest brand advertising campaign.”

Make the best of what you’ve got

We know that times are uncertain and challenging; cap-ex spend and many new developments or extensions may be put on-hold, but we firmly believe that retail destinations still have the opportunity to transform, reinvigorate and future-proof without huge refurbishment costs.

It’s possible to make the best of what you’ve got and breathe new life into venues through a combination of giant LED canvases and well-thought out content – while also having the flexibility and impact to appeal to brand advertisers, therefore generating incremental income as you deliver on experience.

Be Bold and Invest for the Future

Undoubtedly, uncertain times bring with them a tendency for caution in investment. Whilst LED certainly comes with a price tag, its very flexibility as a medium actually makes it a relatively safe bet for long term returns. 

Content – and indeed strategy – can be changed whenever it suits; today’s purely engaging content can be tomorrow’s advertising campaign, making LED not just a powerful medium for today, but a technology that can shape relationships with customers for years to come as retail continues its evolution. 

Essentially, we’re suggesting that retail destinations need to be bold if they want to stay relevant and ultimately survive for the long-term.

Source: ADI UK Ltd, Pittman Court, Pittman Way, Preston PR2 9ZG UK
Contact: Gemma Edmondson| | 07794 256 008

Specialists in screen rental and installation, ADI are one of Europe’s leading names in creative LED and content solutions. We work with some of the biggest names in live events, sport, retail, leisure and media, including intu, Landsec, Formula E, UEFA and The Jockey Club.
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