At first glance, is the new Argos store for the digital world so different from its predecessor? Gone are their familiar laminated catalogues and easily-pocketed blue pens, to be replaced in the new digital Argos with touch screen tablets and there’s not a scrap of paper to be seen. Clearly even high street giants with decades of history are now embracing the digital future-recognising the need to keep up with the twenty-first century society, and adapting in order to survive.

Digital Shopping, it’s all Greek to me

Named after the Greek city which prompted a rebranding of the original catalogue shop to become Argos, it has bridged the gap between warehouse and customer. Before online shopping became a way of life, Argos stores provided customers with an opportunity to browse their catalogue of competitively-priced products and then visit in-store to make their purchase. Even the most timid shopper became familiar with the ordering, payment and collection process.

What’s New?

Marble Arch, London, is one of six new stores under the title ‘concept for a digital future’. First impressions are of a bright, fresh environment with plenty of helpful, available staff ready to guide you through the new process. The search engine on the tablets mimics the Argos website and is certainly quicker than using the old catalogue index, and any online shoppers will be familiar with the methodology. Unlike online shopping, payment for goods in your electronic basket takes place at the Pay and Collect desks after quoting your reservation number generated by reserving on the tablets. At first this seemed an unnecessary extra step but anyone wanting a one stop process could order and make payments at home via the Argos website. It seems Argos believes there’s a feeling of added security paying ‘a person’, which might be more acceptable to some shoppers.

The Acceptable Face of Digital Shopping

Large digital screens break up the ordering area, displaying various products and special offers on one side and Meet the Team screens on the other, there’s a feeling of digital takeover but with a friendly slant. The welcoming ‘Need Help?’ area is clearly signed and appears willing to deal with any queries. Service was quick and efficient for both online ‘Click and Collect’ and in store purchases. A separate Fast Track desk caters for online customer orders, with the promise being served within 60 seconds.

The Argos Catalogue – An Environmental Nightmare?

The Argos catalogue is a vital marketing tool for the business, between the variety of catalogues and promotional material, a total of 89,000 tonnes of paper was used in 2013. This was down 16% on the previous year and reflects the importance of the environment to Argos. The catalogues are 100% recyclable but that does not mean customers will necessary do this. A shift from catalogue-led to digital-led could be supportive to the growing pressure of businesses becoming more environmentally cautious, despite assistance from the internet, with only six stores currently under this concept these won’t have much of a reduction on paper usage. The catalogue could never be totally extricated… Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a hunt through the catalogue so kids can produce an inappropriately long list of presents they require.

Why Shop Here…

Competitive prices will always attract customers. A very wide range of products rivalling those available online but delivered into your hand instead of the vagaries of home delivery will also be a draw for certain customers. The possibility of octogenarians embracing touch-screen technology could be dismissed, but with plenty of helpful staff in the digitally-led stores to help – Argos could be providing a public service, teaching older generations the benefits of new technologies. Of course there will always be a few back up catalogues available in store.

The Trials and Tribulations of Argos

Argos isn’t a stranger to struggles, for the first time in 5 years sales were on the rise in 2013. That same year 11 stores closed as a kick off to the Argos plan of closing 75 stores over the next 5 years in order to shift the focus to online and continue to challenge competition from emerging contenders such as supermarkets. It has to be remembered that there are currently only six stores rebranded to the digital future concept, it has not yet been rolled out in large numbers across the country. I would expect tablets to be more expensive to implement than catalogues which could suggest this handful of trial stores could stay at this number for some time.

Argos has tweaked their successful warehouse-to-customer format to bring it into the digital age; however this is still on a small scale for now. The new stores are user friendly and give a viable alternative to those who hate receiving ‘we called but you were out’ cards instead of the goods they ordered.