One thing is for sure; experiential retail is the future. For years, we have heard stories of the apparent decline of the high street and the subsequent rise of the internet, as if this was an trajectory impossible to reverse. But as the desire for experiences has risen, for example millennials said 52% of their holiday spending would go on experience-related purchases compared to 39% of older customers, this trend could be about to reverse.
As consumers choose to invest in experiences rather than products, retailers need to respond to meet the needs of their customers. Customers don’t want to just walk into your shop, buy your product and leave because they could do this in the comfort of their own home. But by creating a more immersive retail experience, retailers can drive people towards their stores and ensure they leave not just with your products but also memories. Retailtainment is predicted to dominate the industry, the fusion of retail and entertainment, an effort on the part of retailers to provide customers with fun, unique experiences that elevate shopping above anything it’s previously been.
Traditional marketing strategies were once successful through analytical, quantitative methods focused on functional features and benefits. But with our ever changing environment and the retail industry entering into a new era, it is necessary to shift attention from the features-and-benefits approach to entirely customer experiences. Managers must understand new concepts and approaches to enhance consumer’s experience, and new approaches within the organization to capitalize on the new opportunities offered by experiential marketing.
Consumers have a plethora of choices when it comes to where they spend their money. Experiential marketing is everywhere, and to make sure your business is successful you need to offer your consumers a desirable experience to drive sales.
Farfetch, founded in 2008, is as an e-commerce portal for luxury boutiques. It has successfully positioned itself as the technology provider for brands, and has most recently combined technology and fashion to provide an unique in-store experience.
The founder of Farfetch, José Neves, spoke about his concern that physical retail is diminishing, where it accounts for 93% of sales today, but by 2025 it is predicted to account for just 80 per cent.
“Retailers need a way to collect information about their customers while they are browsing in-store, just as they collect data from online searches” – José Neves
Neves has a vision for a future retail experience, where advancements in technology would start to free up time and can help make the consumer experience become more human. With this idea, the retail entrepreneur produced Farfetch’s Store of the Future – an augmented retail solution that “links the online and offline worlds, using data to enhance the retail experience.” The Store of the Future aims at providing the in-store experience of the future by giving visibility to retailers on what is happening in the store.
In their most recent temporary retail store in London, the luxury e-commerce platform provided connected clothing racks, touch-screen-enhanced mirrors and sign-in stations that could help put data collected from customers online to use in stores.
Farfetch provides a screen for customers to use where they can sign in and search their purchase history and bucket list, providing customer insight for the sales assistants. There is also a smart mirror so they can request different sizes, alternative products or even pay without leaving the dressing room. Their high tech advancements also gives the customers the opportunity to customize and order shoes, with different styles and fabrics.
Farfetch’s innovation has lead them to be labeled as “The Retail of the Future”, as it fundamentally allows customers to enjoy a bespoke and effortless experience that harmonises the best parts of boutique shopping with the speed and convenience of eCommerce.
An effortless shopping trip? Now that’s an experience I’m sure we all want.
The House of Vans in London certainly lives up to the company motto of being “off the wall”. A location where art, music, BMX, street culture and fashion converge, you can find almost everything you can imagine across the 30,000 square feet building. Amongst a cinema, café, live music venue and art gallery, the bottom floor holds the most unique feature of the building; the concrete ramp, mini ramp and street course.
Designed by skaters, for skaters, the park is free to use and accepts those as young as 5 onto the ramps. There are specific sessions allocated for BMX riders and skaters, and customers are actively encouraged to walk in on the day. Nothing better epitomises the Vans brand than a space where young people can not only shop but spontaneously socialise. The House of Vans is the perfect example of how experiential retail can be used to create a day your customer will really remember.
Ikea brought to life the dream most of us have – to have a sleepover in an Ikea shop. They brought this experience to over 100 fans who won a Facebook challenge, letting them spend the night in the warehouse in Essex. They were provided with massages, salons, and were able to select the mattress, sheets and pillows to fully give them a tailored experience to satisfy their needs. A sleep expert was on hand with tips for getting a good night’s rest, including how to find the perfect mattress for your sleeping style.
This was a rare experience, however the experience was shown to be successful as it was a clever and unique way to obtain visibility and get fans to focus on what Ikea has to offer and try it out for themselves.
This idea derived from understanding their consumer insights on social media, where Lois Blenkinsop, Ikea’s U.K. PR and internal communications manager, said in a statement: “Social media has opened up a unique platform for us to interact directly with our customers. Listening to what they want is what we do best, and the Big Sleepover is just one example of how we’re using such instant and open feedback to better inform our marketing activity.”
From using social media they were able to apply experiential marketing to their retail strategy and provide their customers with a desirable event that obtained visibility and engagement.
Space Ninety 8
As a spin-off from Urban Outfitters, you might expect Space Ninety 8 to house exclusive vintage pieces and that would be about it. You could not be more wrong. The shared retail space spans 5 floors, hosting retailers, galleries and even a rooftop restaurant and bar, Space Ninety 8 provides such a vast variety of experiences that you could spend all day there and not get bored.
Taking a scan of their Instagram, you can see the variety of what Space Ninety 8 has to offer beyond solely retail. Advertised next to yoga classes is an album signing by Big Boi, alongside pictures of art classes and Lady GaGa merchandise. By reflecting the flexible nature of modern life by creating a versatile store that conflates social and retail space, Space Ninety 8 have perfect the art of retailtainment.
Experiences don’t have to be a permanent feature of a store in order to make an impact on customers. In 2015 TOMS’ placed VR headsets into 100 stores, enabling them to virtually transport customers to Peru to see the impact of their One for One giving campaign on local people.
As you walk through the village with locals smiling and waving at you, it is impossible not to feel warmed by the friendly atmosphere. Not only did this improve awareness of their social corporate responsibility and promote their giving campaign, it also gave customers an unforgettable and immersive experience they were unlikely to forget in a hurry.
While integrated bookshops and coffee shops are the norm, the concept of a pub in a bookshop is far more novel. Beerwolf Books in Falmouth offers a broad range of literature, both new and secondhand in one corner, while in the other a bar stocked with a range of locally brewed beers and ciders.
By day it acts as a cosy coffee shop full of students writing essays and reading books, ideal to stop and reflect or catch up with friends and maybe buy something unique. By night, it’s the perfect pub to pick up a pint and browse the bookcases before heading home. Beerwolf Books is the perfect example of how to create somewhere people will make as a destination that they have to visit and will keep on revisiting due to its unique charm.
Late Night Chameleon Café in London is not just a retail store. By appointment only, you can access a unique range of eco-aware items from “mainline designers” and new talent that aim to uphold their ethos of expression, integrity and honesty. They transcend what a store represents and should be, by making themselves a store within an art installation, rather than vice versa.
For those who like to relax, the out of print and first edition library creates a treasure trove for book lovers, while rare and exclusive vinyls are also on sale for hipsters. A bar and club space provides a selection of all natural drinks, which reinforces the eco-aware expression of the whole store. The Late Night Chameleon Café provides an experience that challenges everything you know about retail.
How to Provide Retailtainment that Drive Traffic and Sales
These 7 case studies all stress the importance of providing an in-store experience. It may seem difficult and unusual but there are 5 consistent underlying elements they use to ensure a remarkable customer experience. These are:
- Interactiveness: All of these retailers ensure that the senses are connected – memories of what we feel, hear, see, smell, and touch, may last a lifetime.
- Originality: These ideas were all authentic and natural, making the customer feel as if they have entered a different world.
- Connectedness: Customers must feel that the experience has been created for them. This can be done through the utilization of elements from previous visits, or design of
products targeted at customers’ niche tastes. This is seen in Farfetch’s strategy, where customers are able to customize their own shoes.
- Unexpectedness: These unique experiences are critical to ensure your brand is remembered.
- Reliability: The experience is executed through tested methods to achieve consistency and excellence. This is to ensure that the in-store experience strives and is properly executed.
The Future is Now
Experiential marketing isn’t about spending millions on fancy gadgets for your retail store. Sure it can help, but it’s mostly about a personalized shopping experience and providing an unparalleled retail experience for your customer. These case studies all demonstrate how it is possible to follow similar steps to overcome the challenges eCommerce has brought.