How to Make Your Store Stand Out With Experiential Retail

Confession: I bought most of my Christmas presents online last year on Cyber Monday. What can I say? I live in the Midwest and at the time it was seven degrees outside. And while I love a good discount as much as the next person, I can’t stomach Black Friday or the long lines that come with it.

But in spite of my year-round Amazon Prime addiction, I’m not ready to give up on the brick-and-mortar experience either. I have many fond memories of wandering through the mall with my friends as a teenager. Who can forget stumbling into stores like Hot Topic for the first time? Or getting your ears pierced at one of those mall kiosks?

And while it’s not as convenient as ordering online, I can’t give up the experience of going to Target either. There’s something about getting one of their red shopping carts, stopping by the Starbucks, and then spending an hour browsing through every aisle. Convenience is nice, but it doesn’t give you the same good feeling that an in-store experience can.

Some have been proclaiming the death of retail for a while, but others see that brick-and-mortar retail has a clear future. And that future may lie in experiential retail.

 

Real-Life Examples of Experiential Retail Marketing

I’m not alone in my nostalgia for shopping malls or the retail experience; 72 percent of online shoppers agree that the brick-and-mortar experience is important. Many people clearly feel that there are aspects of in-person shopping that can’t be replicated online.

A brick-and-mortar store can’t compete with Amazon’s unlimited selection of items or 24/7 customer service – and they shouldn’t try. Rather than trying to compete, retailers should focus on embracing their inherent strength and create a unique, in-store experience for their customers.

Here are a few examples of successful brick-and-mortar stores who understand this potential and took advantage of experiential retail marketing:

 

Ralph Lauren

Focus on giving your customers an experience they’ll remember. That’s exactly what Ralph Lauren did when they added interactive mirrors in the dressing rooms at their New York City flagship store. Now shoppers can change the lighting in the fitting room, browse through store inventory, talk to a sales associate, and pick a different color or size — all by using the dressing room mirror.

The mirror will also recommend other items you might like based on what you’re already trying on. And if you’re not ready to order that day, you can request to have the information about the items you tried on texted to you. And the mirrors seem to be doing the trick — Ralph Lauren reported a 90 percent engagement rate since installing them. 

Benefit Cosmetics

Be open to thinking outside the box and trying something different. Last June, Benefit Cosmetics, a UK beauty brand, built GlastonBrow, a drive-thru that gives away eyebrow waxes and other cosmetic freebies to drivers on their way to the Worthy Farm music festival.

The brand provided DJ sets to keep drivers entertained in the event of traffic jams. And customers who posted a photo of themselves online using the hashtag #BenefitBrows were entered into a contest to win a year’s supply of the company’s products.

Experiential is a key part of Benefit’s marketing approach and the company regularly brings their brand to consumers throughout the year with different interactive events.

Lululemon

Remember that loyal customers will not only keep coming back, they’ll bring their friends and family with them. After all, no one can help spread the word like enthusiastic and satisfied customers can.

Consider the store Lululemon; instead of following in the footsteps of Nike or Under Armour and seeking out celebrity endorsements, they turned their customers into brand advocates. The company outfits these customers for free, sends them to the annual Lululemon summit in Canada, and lets them teach classes in their stores.

They invest in their consumers as ambassadors, and this pays them back in dividends.

 

Moving Forward With Retail Experiential

The reason why experiential retail marketing is so powerful is that these unique, in-person interactions are fun and memorable. Of course, not all stores will have the budget or the bandwidth to fully revamp their existing in-store model. But that doesn’t mean experiential retail is out of reach.

The reason the companies mentioned above were successful is that each one had a deep understanding of the customers and their needs. So as other brands begin to think about creating experiences for their own customers, here are a few other points to keep in mind:

  • Encourage people to engage with your products. You can do this by offering free samples, tastings, interactive displays, or a live product demonstration.
  • Create a bigger bang by incorporating technology into your experiential efforts. Create a branded hashtag or a contest on social media that will encourage more people to participate.
  • Try to be more interactive and tailor your message to your customers. In their 2017 Future of Retail study, Walker Sands surveyed over 1,600 consumers to find out what would encourage them to shop in stores more frequently. Many of the people surveyed said they wanted more special events and a more personalized shopping experience.
  • Consider who your ideal customer is and what story you are trying to share with them. And of course, consider the action you are trying to inspire them to take. Make everyone feel welcome, regardless of whether they are likely to become a customer or not.

Brick-and-mortar stores don’t need to compete with online shopping, but rather they should focus on their own areas of strength. They should amp up the one thing that eCommerce can’t offer: the in-person experience.

Author: Kelly Springs-Kelley

Kelly Springs-Kelley is the Marketing Director at Elevate Staffing. When she's not creating content or pondering the future of in-person consumer engagement, Kelly can be found hiking the mountains of Arizona with her 2 kids and 3 dogs.

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