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Thomson debuts ‘Next Generation Store’

By Retail Technology | Wednesday November 6 2013

Design agency collaboration aims to deliver “truly connected retail experience” with leisure travel company’s launch of first concept store in Bluewater

Leisure travel company and division of TUI Travel, Thomson recently opened its Next Generation Store (NGS) at Bluewater in Kent as the first in a nationwide roll out of a new connected retail concept. 

Set over 2,187 square feet, the newly designed store is designed to integrate the latest technology combined with great service to enhance the experience of choosing and booking a holiday.

Created in partnership with strategic design consultancy 20.20, the NGS has been designed around an innovative customer-centric brand experience that delivers high-touch service supported by high-tech tools. The store experience has been developed around co-creating holidays, bringing together staff and customers in an environment that is radically different from previous Thomson shops.

Digital display and interactivity

Visitors on their approach to the shop front are met by a giant immersive video wall showcasing high definition (HD) holiday content. As they enter an interactive map and interactive tables are on hand to entertain customers and help them research holidays and the broad range of products available. Here customers can compile top ten lists, view live weather information, read reviews and view videos of destinations. 

Social media feeds are streamed onto the screens to inspire and inform customers and give them a feel of what to expect from their holiday before they book. Further into the store the Advice Bar gives customers the chance to browse content on self-service laptops with staff on hand to answer any questions.

The store is zoned so customers can choose from browsing on their own devices using free Wi-Fi in the pool area, self-serving on customer computers at the Advice Bar, where staff will be on hand to answer questions or have a more personalised experience in the large booths where relevant holiday images and video content will be projected on the wall.

Destination retail store concept

Kathryn Ward, TUI UK & Ireland director of retail and financial services, said: “The opening of our first next generation store today is very exciting for the business as it showcases the future for our retail network. Central to the concept is the designing of unique holiday experiences customers cannot find elsewhere.

“We’re combining the knowledge and expertise of our people with a range of technology that will really bring choosing and booking a holiday to life and we’re looking forward to welcoming our first customers to the store.”

Jon Lee, creative director of 20.20, commented: “Technology and design are fused in this store like never before. Not as a gimmick, but as part of one brand experience that delivers a superlative holiday buying environment.”

The NGS took 12 months to deliver from strategy to implementation and required intense collaboration between 20.20 and a wide range of client-side teams. The agency took Thomson through a strategy and design phase and then into an implementation phase. “We designed the entire store environment, from the furniture to the content on the interactive screens,” Lee added. “This process saw 20.20 work with retail teams, web teams, content teams and property teams in a spirit of open and collaborative innovation.”

Future-proof tech development

The Thomson NGS interactive screens have been designed and built entirely around the total store concept, with user experience and front-end code built entirely from scratch. And the bespoke digital store-experience is fed by a purpose built content management tool that takes content directly from TUI's existing content management system (CMS).

Data is refreshed overnight, with content stored locally on media players. This means that not only is content fully up to date, but that the experience is fast and responsive, with no requirement on a network connection or download of data for the interactive elements. And the entire customer-facing interface has been built using standard web technology, augmented with advanced touch and transition elements, to give an app feel within a browser experience. The result is a blend of top-end interactive experience with a highly adaptable and scalable platform.

As the experience is built with standard web technology, the agency added that it can be easily re-formatted to work on a wide variety of screens, including small format touchscreens and tablets. This allows the interactive elements to be flexed and rolled out to smaller and larger format stores with equal ease. In addition, the platform can be scaled, allowing one implementation to be rolled out to the entire estate at no extra development cost.

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