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Every single year in our annual Audience Survey we ask our global early adopters a certain question: do you purchase more items online or in store? While the figures have been inching ever closer, for the first time this year we saw online purchases over take in store purchases. Figures reveal that 52 per cent of our Audience prefer to buy online. But it doesn’t have to be a case of one versus the other, rather understanding the comparative advantages each one has to offer. In order to determine the advantages for the early adopter we dove deeper with our questioning and discovered that 61 per cent of the Protein Audience would rather spend money on experiences than products and 64 per cent want an in store experience to connect them with members of the local community. The responses saw an overwhelming desire for connection, community and experience, but in what ways is it possible for retail to really capitalise in on this?

Above all else, when a brand decides to action any or all of these desires it’s vital it aligns with their core brand values. Dove recently launched the #MyBeautyMySay campaign which is an online platform that highlights the judgemental comments women experience about their appearance. It encourages women worldwide to participate using the #MyBeautyMySay hashtag, allowing a community to thrive off the back of negative incidents. The reason it works so well for Dove is that they’ve spent the last 12 years carving a space for themselves within the female empowerment territory. It’s entirely in line with the values the brand is built on. If a company with no previous association attempted a similar thing it could have come across disingenuous at best, if not exploitative.

A fashion brand that has fostered a physical – not online – community space is COS. The Swedish retail chain teamed up with bookstore project The Book Society for their Cheongdam store in Seoul, South Korea. They turned the passive experiences of shopping on their head by providing a reading area, bookstore and exhibition space for people to peruse in between shopping, or while waiting for partners. It was an experience that encouraged people not only to shop, but immerse themselves in the sensibility of the brand, as well as give them the chance to interact more easily with one another.

We believe that a brand isn’t what you tell people it is, it’s what people tell each other it is. If you can nurture a community and show them the values and principles of your brand, then you provide an opportunity for our Audience to identify with those values. And if there’s something they identify with, they’re going to want to share that with their friends – their community.

Will Rowe is the CEO and founder of Protein. Protein helps businesses to grow and develop by understanding consumer trends and behaviour.

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