Ever been fed up with how the in-store shopping experience compares with shopping from the comfort of your own home? Market Gravity are taking on the challenge of changing the physical shopping experience.

Re:store is a new project that Market Gravity are working on in Leeds. The project brings together several partners; Market Gravity, Landsec (a large UK property owner), Leeds City and Alibaba Cloud Retail to deliver a new, evolved, shopping experience. A shopping experience that responds to the needs of customers and aligns the digital experience (arguably in many ways easier, slicker and more personalised) to the physical store experience). We’ve all felt the frustration of seeing an item in a shop window, going in to try and find it, being unable to, seeing a huge queue for the changing room and till, and then ultimately deciding to leave without trying anything on at all. This is what we uncover on this week’s episode, available here.

What does the project entail?

The project is made up of several elements: physical stores in Trinity shopping centre where new technology can be tested in real time with real customers; ‘The Walk’: the new work space for big brands and innovators in retail and tech to collaborate and re-imagine retail in a flexible workplace, and ‘shopalytics’ which is the Market Gravity name for the combination of technology that will be monitoring and gaining insight in the physical stores.

How did this project come about?

As you’ll hear on the podcast, the team were passionate about changing the high street shopping experience. It seems the current news story is that the high street is dying, with a new retailer going into administration every week. There’s no denying that traditional retailers are under threat, but 80% of shopping is still conducted in physical stores, as opposed to online.

“You read every week about some other bricks and mortar shop chain going into administration, and the exciting part of this is that it’s helping that world to evolve. Not to overtake…but to catch-up. We can really use technology to change customer experience for the better – and retail experience for the better,” said Tom Day, Innovation Director at Market Gravity. “The shopping experience hasn’t moved on or developed – most brands haven’t changed the ways they engage with customers.”

The team believed that Leeds had the talent, resource and ambition to become famous for tech in the North. Leeds has a rich textile history, as well as as a vibrant personality and an intention to innovate.: the project ties in closely with the work that Leeds City Council is currently doing to transform Leeds. We spoke to Tom Riordan, head of the Council, about the project.

“It’s great that in the city where Thomas Spencer and Joseph Marks started Marks and Spencer we have innovation happening today. We have an ambition to be the best city in the UK- we want to be neighbourhood based, family friendly, with a strong social ethic.”

Leeds are working to digitise many aspects of their council, and to use technology to make improvements to challenges facing the community, such as social care, improving transport, and getting people online. All these elements came together to show that Leeds was the perfect place to run the project.

So the question was: how might we reimagine the future of the high street?

Market Gravity’s Shopalytics platform is an analytics platform that takes individual pieces of data and puts it into a model. This means that you can ask it questions, such as how many people came into the store, what did they do, how did they interact? Software and Hardware Lead, Pete Mills, told us: “The real value is being able to run experiments and see in a rational, objective way, which changes have made the most improvements” – which is a stark contrast to the way traditional retail stores are run today.

To support this, additional partners have been brought onto the project, including Alibaba Cloud Retail, on the technical side. All the data and interactions that you can do on e-commerce site can be tried out in the physical store. Alibaba has a wealth of experience in achieving that in China – where they combine online with in store experience.

In addition to the technical aspect, there’s also a physical space to transform. The challenge was to transform 7,700 sq ft of empty retail space above Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre into a retail tech hub with a clear identity, purpose and competitive market offering, dubbed ‘The Walk’. This hub would support the experimental approach taken in the physical stores, where new technology could be tested to measure its impact on the shopping experience.

Market Gravity are bringing their expertise by completing a 4 week sprint project to look at what the proposition and brand should be for The Walk. Based on a launch date of end of January, the team have been working to develop a set of experiments that will test their assumptions, brand positioning, and get the first businesses signed up to work in the space.

We hope you enjoy listening to this month’s podcast – it’s an exciting opportunity hear about how Market Gravity and partners are coming together to experiment and fundamentally change the way that retail responds to customers, providing better experiences for both customers and business owners.

Any comments or feedback? Let us know at launchbreak@marketgravity.com