How EE is reinventing the role of retail in telco


By Bridget Lea, MD Commercial, BT’s Consumer business 

This summer, we have been opening the doors to a new world of retail for EE customers.

At the beginning of June, we launched our new flagship store, the EE Studio in White City, London. It’s the UK’s largest telco retail space, combining physical and digital experiences to guide visitors through every stage of their connected lives.

Today, we’ve opened the doors to customers at the first of our new Experience stores – in Cardiff. Other EE Experience stores in Manchester and Bluewater, Kent, will follow. Experience stores will look and feel very much like our Studio store, only on a smaller scale. These wonderful spaces showcase the direction we are taking with New EE and our nationwide retail strategy, which seeks to reinvigorate the high street and reinvent the role of retail in the telco industry.

Our new stores are designed with innovation, personal experience, and community front and centre and bring technology to life for customers up and down the country.

Retail’s important role in our connected lives

So, why are we looking to create standout IRL experiences at a time when so much of our lives are lived online?

We're all using more connected devices, all the time. Our world is becoming more complex, more confusing and there's no one, really, helping you navigate through that complexity and all those devices. We think there's a big part our retail spaces can play in that.

Our Studio store has been a long time in the making. A couple of years ago, we were coming out of the Covid pandemic and it was a challenging time for the high street. A lot of brands were thinking hard about what they should do with their retail estate. Was it still relevant? Should they move everything online?

We went through that same process. The most important thing in all of that is how our customers still feel. They told us that retail is still really important – as are contact centres, as are our digital channels.

At the same time, we really got thinking about our New EE brand, the direction it was taking, EE becoming our flagship and the ambition we have to be the most personal consumer brand in the UK. And as a key part of that, we are rethinking our retail strategy and raising the bar in terms of what we create for our customers on the high street.

We've all heard for many years about how retail is moving from functional more towards experiential. There are few brands and places that have really put their money where their mouths are and created great experiences.

We think what we have with our Studio store and our Experience stores will create great experiences for customers, making the complex world of technology and connectivity simpler.

We want our Studio and Experience stores to be that much more welcoming. We hope we're creating the antithesis of the traditional mobile phone store – this is not about customers walking in, we sell them something and we'll see you in two years for an upgrade. We want them to come back the next week, and the week after. Because every week, we should have something different to say to them, a different event and a different experience.

Serving our communities, closing the digital divide

As part of being a welcoming space, we want our stores to play a more vital role in the communities they serve.

So, what does that look like in London?

On Saturday, we kicked off our Westfield Studio store’s partnership with Our Power Hub with the first of an ongoing calendar of free tech workshops that we’ll run throughout the summer. Our Power Hub is a community group created after the Grenfell Tower Fire to support residents and improve their quality of life by providing free access to events, activities and community projects.

Fathima Hakkim, a professional illustrator and novelist, led Saturday’s Digital Art Workshop using the latest technology and apps. She guided children through the process of digital art creation and animation, giving them tips and tricks on sketching, drawing and colour blending.

We want to encourage people to learn new skills and for local people to feel like our Studio store is part of the local community, not just part of Westfield Shopping Centre. And, building into EE’s wider purpose as part of BT Group, working with Our Power Hub is another way we are helping tackle the digital divide.

Details about upcoming sessions will be available on the digital screens on the EE Studio shopfront, as well as the Our Power Hub website.

Together with Our Power Hub, we are dedicated to making a lasting impact and contributing to a more inclusive and connected society.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @_bridgetlea