Experiential retail is taking the world of brick and mortar stores by storm and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. With online shopping only growing, physical stores have found that this trend in building consumer engagement gives them a competitive advantage and increases brand awareness. After all, more than three-quarters of millennials prefer to spend their money on an experience, according to a Harris Group poll.
What is an Enhanced Retail Experience and Why Does it Work?
In 2019, experiential retail trends speak to an enhanced and increasingly personal customer experience. By creating an environment where customers experience something that goes beyond the traditional standard of retail stores, brick and mortar retailers find themselves ahead of the game. Not only are they able to compete with their direct peers, but also with online shopping. In fact, when they focus on creating an experience, they:
- Create buzz, which drives more awareness,
- Increase the amount of time people spend in their store,
- Engage their customers and creating a higher level of emotional connection with the brand, and
- Generate higher levels of publicity, both socially and in news outlets.
Examples of Experiential Retail Trends in 2019
While it may have started with high-end boutiques where models come out and show off the clothes, the concept of selling the experience over the product (but in order to ultimately sell more product) is growing in leaps and bounds, utilizing both technology and more tangible materials. Every brick and mortar business should be aware of these trends and the way that brands are using them to stay one step ahead.
Virtual reality is giving retail customers an insider experience at stores around the world!
Toms is using virtual reality to give their customers a first-hand look at how their charitable campaign is helping communities in Peru. What’s more, this video gives you an opportunity to try it out for yourself by using the arrow keys. Give it a spin!
Topshop debuted a virtual waterslide to take their adventurous customers on a thrill-seeking tour of London.
And these days, you don’t need a VR headset to see another version of reality. In fact, new technologies are bringing augmented reality to retail locations in a way that enhances the way customers interact when they visit.
Just like Instagram and Snapchat offer filters to tweak reality, MAC Cosmetics has created a Virtual Try On Mirror that allows customers to try out new makeup colors and styles without ever opening a product.
Great examples of trends in experience-based engagement aren’t always 100% reliant on technology. In fact, retailers like REI have long featured climbing walls in their stores, where visitors can test out gear, try new techniques, and even take private lessons.
Vans has taken this concept and run with it, creating their signature cultural hubs. These flagship locations feature skate parks and often serve as a concert venue, as well as play to simply hang out and create a community.
Lululemon was one of the first brands to offer fitness classes inside their retail locations. It’s a trend that’s spreading like wildfire, too.
In fact, now you can find fitness classes at a wide variety of retail stores and food & beverage outlets, including juice bars and craft breweries.
A Social Media-Optimized Experience
No discussion on experiential retail would be complete without a mention of L’Occitane’s new storefront in Manhattan. Particularly noteworthy is the way that they’ve turned their entire store into a fully immersive experience worth writing home (or Instagramming) about. Not the least of which is the social-media friendly wall, where customers can pose with bikes in front of a Provence-themed backdrop.
Obviously not every retailer will be creating an experience quite so detailed as that of L’Occitane. But by including a selfie wall with some really fun environmental graphics that customers can interact with will help boost the amount of time they spend in a store.
And new digital photo booth platforms like Onebooth give retailers a fun way to interact with the brand, whether during an in-store brand activation or simply as a fun activity while shopping. These new photo booths offer branded graphics and fun filters for images, that can be shared instantly while also capturing leads.
Elements of Successful Experiential Retail
The idea of enhanced customer experience isn’t limited to a brick and mortar set up or even permanent installations in a store. In fact, you can often find the elements that make it work in non-traditional events like pop-up stores, conferences, or other short-term events.
Each example above generated wild success with customers. And although each is completely distinctive from concept to application, there are some common threads between them all that lead to their outstanding—and lucrative—results:
- They are all interactive and speak directly to the way the clients interact with the brand.
- Each experience immerses the customer into the brand story.
- They all improve customer engagement by building on emotional connections.
- They increase the amount of time a customer spends with a retailer.
- They are fun.
- Each experience is optimized for social media interaction.
The bottom line of finding success using experiential retail trends this year is creating a customer experience that is highly personal, fun, and fully immersive in a way that leads to better customer engagement. Retailers who can capitalize on unique and unexpected experiences will give themselves a leg up on the competition, even when it’s online.