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Emma Ede: “Lower prices will drive impulsive”

Bring an in-store feel to the digital experience: The inability to engage customers in a physical environment has pushed retailers to bring more of the in-store experience online. Virtual shopping experiences offer such a huge potential and retail businesses must look forward to adopting these technologies to improve better shopping experiences for consumers for both […]

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Bring an in-store feel to the digital experience:

The inability to engage customers in a physical environment has pushed retailers to bring more of the in-store experience online. Virtual shopping experiences offer such a huge potential and retail businesses must look forward to adopting these technologies to improve better shopping experiences for consumers for both online and in-store. The demand for virtual experiences will be substantial in the future as implementation of these technologies enables businesses to grow and shoppers will be expecting to be able to shop from home with a virtual experience similar to what they have in a store.

With the ongoing situation of COVID-19, retailers need to re-evaluate their strategies to ensure they create compelling shopping experiences further than the shop floor to develop immersive communications with consumers and capture a new online audience that they might not have done previously.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emma Ede, Founder of retail experience agency Stellar.

With more than 25 years’ experience in retail, marketing and events, we launched Stellar in 2019 with a single-minded focus on helping brands to maximize sales within retail. After ten years of working together, our award-winning team has a track record of developing and leading the biggest retail demonstration programmes, pop ups and events for an impressive portfolio of brands. Combining our expertise of people, data and insight, we have created a unique approach to optimizing results in today’s retail landscape.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

On leaving Birmingham university with a degree in French, I knew that I wanted to work in marketing or media and so I began to interview for a whole variety of BTL / ATL agencies and one of the agencies was iD, an experiential specialist. I had never heard of experiential, but I loved the work they were doing and the idea of delivering a face to face experience -the immediate gratification of seeing a consumer engage with a product in such an immersive way. During my almost 20 years at iD (from Account Exec to MD) I had the privilege of working with a variety of brands — from established to brand new in a range of interesting environments. The clients that we formed the deepest and longest lasting relationships with were those that we worked with in retail and I became passionate about delivering experiences that delivered a return. In 2018 I decided to take the leap, with two of my long-standing partners, and set up our own shop — Stellar, a retail experience agency. We worked hard to develop a proposition and service that answers the retail needs for brands and products today and into the future.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I have had so many amazing times in my long career in the experience industry, but I think the most exciting has been taking the plunge to build my own agency. I have found the challenge of breaking into 8 European countries so rewarding too. Having the time to develop a proposition from scratch whilst travelling all over Europe has been exhausting but definitely a career highlight.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

First starting is such a long time ago — Too long to remember really!! Some of my funniest moments have been on the way to a pitch. Anna (One of the founders of Stellar and our Business Development Director at iD) and I have been on too many pitches and on the way I have lost a shoe, split my favorite leather skirt and finalized the deck in the cab from the station to the office! In all of those scenarios we have won! What I have learned is that you can’t take yourself too seriously and have fun!

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Even pre pandemic, we were working on new ways to engage audiences in both physical and virtual environments but as the change in retail has been expedited so has our development of new solutions. For one of our clients we had created a coffee masterclass programme with coffee Roaster partners across Europe. 90-minute sessions held in a roastery, providing an authentic and inspiring environment for them. As soon as the pandemic hit we converted these sessions to virtual classes, firstly from the home of the Sage Coffee Expert and now we have adapted to return to Roaster venues but with a virtual class. These classes have been created in 5 languages and have seen thousands of visitors from over 40 countries and generated over £100k revenue for our client.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

In this new work environment where the majority of people are working from home whether that’s in an office study, a dining table or from a living room sofa, it’s vital that people find the balance between life, work and family. Be sure to create a routine that allows you to sign off properly from your working day, I find that putting my laptop out of sight is key for letting my brain and body relax over a weekend.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I choose to work with brands and companies that will bring happiness to consumers. The team at Stellar and I strive to work with companies that will inspire and engage people across the world. The retail landscape shouldn’t just be about a sales transaction, it’s about connecting people, it’s about emotion.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

Video first technology:

Social distancing restrictions have changed the way people engage with retailers and malls and brands have had to react to this to suit the shopper of today. Video first platforms are great for allowing customers a direct store window via HD video calls where people can receive an in-store experience, learn about products from the comfort of their own home.

Bring an in-store feel to the digital experience:

The inability to engage customers in a physical environment has pushed retailers to bring more of the in-store experience online. Virtual shopping experiences offer such a huge potential and retail businesses must look forward to adopting these technologies to improve better shopping experiences for consumers for both online and in-store. The demand for virtual experiences will be substantial in the future as implementation of these technologies enables businesses to grow and shoppers will be expecting to be able to shop from home with a virtual experience similar to what they have in a store.

With the ongoing situation of COVID-19, retailers need to re-evaluate their strategies to ensure they create compelling shopping experiences further than the shop floor to develop immersive communications with consumers and capture a new online audience that they might not have done previously.

Build a community:

I’ve seen an increase of retailers and brands creating a community for consumers through the use of social media such as hosting live video streams. The brands hosting experiences such as live video streams are helping to build communities and in turn will bring people together as they connect through their discoveries of a brand and their products.

Omnichannel:

Retailers need to embrace an omnichannel approach and build a strong and consistent customer experience between a physical store and their digital presence. A customer experience doesn’t stop once they’ve left a retailer or mall. Craft compelling product experiences similar to what a customer would receive on a shop floor. Whether this is creating virtual demonstrations, providing a video call service so customers can easily contact you from the comfort of their homes, or cultivating a community via hosting online masterclasses, these are digital techniques that retailers can implement to create informative content to your ecommerce site which can be the difference between confusion and conversion.

Smaller Stores and Pop ups:

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on traditional retail and led to the temporary closure of many bricks-and-mortar stores, naturally accelerating the shift towards e-commerce purchases.

Consumers are adapting their shopping habits to suit a new normal where choices may be more limited — what is in stock, what they can get delivered and, in many cases, what happens to be open on their local high street.

The pop-up shop concept will grow in prevalence where retailers build intimate branded experiences where consumers can shop and have items shipped to their homes. With the appeal of short-term leases, pop ups can also provide greater interactivity with consumers than traditional physical stores.

Pop ups will pump more money into digital in-store experiences and reduce their costs on square footage and unproductive inventory.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

Retail stores and malls will continue to exist in the coming years as people will still crave that human connection that the digital world cannot offer. But the retail landscape is changing, and physical stores need to evolve with their customers shopping behaviors. We are starting to see that retailers are offering a 360-retail experience — Offering more than just a standard selling approach but an experience that is selling a brand and building customer loyalty.

Speaking to a knowledgeable person in-store gets a level of service, whereas online it’s about convenience. In-store and online shouldn’t be in competition given how different customer habits are on each platform. Customers are doing their research online and coming in-store with the intention to buy, not browse. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how ecommerce and physical stores teamed together can create a strong consumer experience, but we now know that consumers want convenience and safety when shopping in-store. If someone finds what they want in the fitting room, why queue to pay. Pay instead from an iPad or mobile phone. It’s all about adapting your in-store interaction with customers to not only mirror an ecommerce experience but evolve with the customer and their changing shopping behaviors.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Stores like Lululemon, Costco, Glossier and Amazon recognize that their priority is the customer and they have to invest in their customers to retain them. Not only does this mean evolving with their customer base with a shopping experience that reflects their values and behaviors, these retailers will offer a 24/7 brand experience at different touchpoints whether it’s online or in-store.

Post COVID, I believe that consumers will crave a strong desire to connect more with one another and everything that they encompass. Brick and mortar stores that provide immersive experiences, opportunities to interact and chances to connect will build and retain their customer base.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Yes, lower prices will drive impulsive, short term sales but experiences, relationships and innovation will offer a relationship with the customer that will drive brand loyalty. If a retailer or brand wants to build a long-term business with their consumers, retailers need to offer more than just a tangible cost. Adding value to your retail store is key for interacting with the customer that goes beyond price point and focuses on the personal experience, value and quality.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My children have an enormous impact on the way I see the world. When I was their age (11-year-old twin girls) I didn’t think about much other than friends, Top of the Pops and school! They, on the other hand, are so informed and engaged when it comes to climate change. Having recently watched David Attenborough’s incredible film, A Life on our Planet, I would have to say that this is where all our energy should be going — Save our Planet — It’s not an issue that will affect the planet in thousands of years, It will affect our children! So now, like my children, I shall stop eating meat and that is something I never thought I would say!

How can our readers further follow your work?

We regularly post insight articles on our site https://stellar.global/ and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/company/stellar-global-ltd/?originalSubdomain=uk

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you so much for having me!


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