Boots have become the latest high-street chain to revamp their stores in a move to claw back the competitive edge from new rivals in the health and beauty sphere. With outdated retail experiences struggling to attract potential customers to make purchases in store, the company have desperately been strategising ways in which to survive the death of the high street.

Now, for the first time in its 170-year history, Boots is ditching traditional beauty counters and reinventing the customer experience by rolling out open furniture, trend-driven zones and discovery areas, ‘play stations’, and spaces for live demonstrations. According to Joanna Rogers, Commercial Director and VP of beauty and gifting at Boots, the aim is to create a new shopping environment that inspires customers to leave the house for an experience that provides something different – one that engages them in a way that cannot be replicated digitally.

“The ambition has been to shake up our current beauty offering to create an open and inspiring environment where customers can explore and play,” says Rogers – she sees Boots stores as “a place to excite them [the shopper] where they can try and then buy the brands they want, from on-trend colour cosmetics for as little as 70p to premium beauty under one roof.”

Considering 90 per cent of the UK population live within ten minutes of a Boots store, the chain has an opportunity here to make shopping for health and beauty products almost as convenient as browsing online, and certainly more exciting. Fighting back from a drop-in year-on-year sales and gross profit, Boots has prepared for the battle by innovating the customer experience – but they aren’t the only ones.

In their battle with e-readers and the unstoppable force that is Amazon, Waterstones has bought family-owned bookseller Foyles as part of a wider strategy to create stores with their own individuality, a move that has so far aided the much-loved bookstore to grow as fellow high-street retailers have stagnated in the face of digitisation.

“At Waterstones, we see our future as responsible stewards of shops that strive to serve their customers each according to their own distinct personality,” said James Daunt, Waterstones’ managing director. According to Daunt, the acquisition would help the bookseller fight back in the face of “Amazon’s siren call”.

After going “stone cold bust” in 2011, Waterstones made the conscious decision to reinvent themselves, focusing on the value of the in-store experiences and virtue of old-fashioned bookselling rather than attempting to compete with online retailers.

Meanwhile, Virgin Holidays have enacted their own strategy to survive the death of the high street by enticing consumers with an immersive in-store experience. In some of their stores, Virgin Holidays have set up upper-class and premium economy seats for customers to try first-hand alongside virtual reality goggles that allow them to get an insight into the holiday experiences they will find at various destinations.

If that wasn’t enough, the holiday company have further added a kids’ area, a free ‘Taste your Holiday’ cocktail bar and a concierge whose purpose is to guide customers to the relevant expert. In their Milton Keynes store, the company have even recreated a plush airport lounge in which customers can have a taster of the ‘Virgin Holidays experience’. As well as guidance on their getaway plans, customers in this store can enjoy a massage or manicure in their luxurious on-site spa.

It might seem far-fetched, but it’s the efforts made to differentiate that will be critical for retailers in establishing their place in a modern shopping landscape. According to Tim Radley, founder of retail specialists VM Unleashed, the retailers who survive the impending Armageddon on the high street will be those who offer ‘omni-channel’ shops: “Offline and online will be completely integrated so shops are an experience, not stuff – they’re enjoyable, and people go and have a good time.”

The question is, are the efforts of companies such as Boots and Virgin Holidays enough to cement their place in a digitally driven economy?

Initially, the development of digital experiences coupled with the proliferation of smart phones saw the closure of a wave of high-street retailers who were unprepared for the new age of shopping. Now, it seems many of these companies are capitalising on new tech solutions such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and IoT as a means of creating a more engaging experience for shoppers.

Already, Topshop and Gap have shown off their demos of augmented reality in the changing room, allowing customers to try on different colours and styles without having to go keep going back to the shop floor – but this is just the beginning.

As bricks and mortar retailers continue to face stiff competition from their digital counterparts, we can expect more key players to harness technology in order to create personalised, intuitive experiences that act as an impetus to buy in store. Purchasing decisions have been irrevocably transformed by digital technology, but those who can adapt and provide customers with a reason to leave their homes could potentially emerge victorious by adding value that cannot be gained online.