The difficulties the retail sector is facing are well-publicised. The ease with which buyers can now compare prices online, order and return items at minimal cost (often at no cost) and choose when and how they do so in a 24/7 marketplace, means physical stores with their overheads appear increasingly burdensome for many retailers as they struggle to control tight margins.
The latest move by Instagram to allow users to shop in video feeds and compile a shopping collection on the app will make it even easier for users to collate items from various brands and purchase while scrolling their phones. Instagram already offers its business users the capability to 'tag' items, displaying their prices and linking them back to their websites. This move towards a more holistic shopping platform therefore seems an almost natural evolution in the social media app. And all just in time for Christmas. Online, it would appear, now reigns.
But. Much of what is written on the demise of bricks and motar retail is from the perspective that online and 'offline' can only be in competition with eachother: if one wins, the other loses. In fact, each offer something the other cannot. Physical space provides an outing, an opportunity to interact and - indeed - an escape from the online space.
Make-up stores can bring in professional make-up artists to demonstrate the products or offer in-store treatments. Clothing stores can offer customisable items, while tech will also play a growing part. In 2015 for example Toms introduced VR into stores, allowing customers to travel through Peru as part of one of the company's Giving Trips; a connection to its promise that for every pair of shoes purchased it provides a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Toy stores can capitalise on Santa's grotto over the festive period or host activities for children.
Meanwhile, Facebook introduced pop-ups over the pond only a few weeks ago, showcasing items from 100 brands. Why? It's unclear but likely a response to Amazon's foray into physical space. Ultimately online players are moving into the physical realm because there still is value in it - if done innovatively.
When discussing the future of retail we always come back to experience and interactivity. People now value memory, or, at the very least, a photo to mark the occasion. A memento which may, after all, end up on Instagram.