Faced with increased online retail competition and witnessing the success of the retail innovations introduced by the Apple Store, brands are looking to innovate the retail shopping experience by enhancing the in-person retail experience. This trend is now referred to as “experiential retailing”.
Experiential Retailing in a Nutshell
The rationale behind experiential retailing is fairly straight ahead: customers have outgrown the typical retail environment, which tends to bombard shoppers with a lot of the same kinds information, from jean store to jean store, or across a spectrum of makeup counters. Because of this, brand differentiation is often compromised.
Experiential retail reorganizes the shop environment to be focused on the individual customer’s energized interaction with the store space, the products, the broader community and, by extension, the brand. This approach can work to make shopping more vivid so that the customer will spend more time in the store, spend more in general, and spend on the retail experience itself.
How Experiential Retailing Can Differentiate a Brand
If the shopping experience can be elevated above the norm, a brand will be more memorable. Here are some strategies that fuel experiential retailing:
- The staff are elevated through the use of titles that are more enlightened sounding than “Sales Associate”
- The physical design of the retail space encourages lingering
- Socially integrated technologies let shoppers browse inventories with a sense of play
If experiential retailing seems forced, out of whack with local needs, or needlessly high-tech, the brand might suffer. However, if it heightens the authenticity of a brand, it can lead to greater brand differentiation.
Brands Using Experiential Retailing
The “Genius Bar” offers hands-on troubleshooting where customers can interact with friendly, Apple-trained technical experts at a uniquely designed space in the store. This educates customers and encourages them to linger in the store before and/or after appointment times.
The Body Shop’s experience based stores are in their trial stages. They include hand massage tables where shoppers can have staff-facilitated conversations about broader issues, Community Walls with petitions for social justice campaigns, and low-to-the-ground furniture that encourages shoppers to hang around.
Build-A-Bear Workshop provides a “magical” retail environment where customers collaborate with a “Bear Builder” to create a custom teddy bear of their choice.
Learn more about experiential retailing by reading these articles from the Globe and Mail and Time.