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Experiential Retail: Is it the key to success?

A lot has been said about online shopping as a huge disruptor of traditional retail marketing - and nobody can deny the benefits that it brings to certain brands in terms of broader consumer reach and sales. However, the online e-commerce space is still a small portion of the entire retail industry turnover, and having a balance between e-commerce and the traditional brick-and-mortar approach is vital to ensure the satisfaction of consumers' needs.

There are plenty of retailers that have used experience centres to gain more than just higher sales, whether that's with elevated customer experiences, connections, or even personalisation. In this blog, we explore how these strategies in retail boost store footfalls and also the importance of using new technologies and approaches.

What is experiential retail?

Experiential retail is the process of creating a memorable shopping experience for customers - this directly engages customers, inviting them to experience brands live and in-person.

As customers become much more selective about the brands that they shop with, the in-store experience will need to stand out from the rest, but what's the catch? It can't be gimmicky and forgo the transactional element. Shoppers are still there to discover and buy your products.

According to a Forrester Consulting study, it states that more than a third of consumers (35%) plan to engage with brands via experiential moments over the next few years, which is no surprise that 40% of brands say that offering this style of retail would become a top priority for them.

Experiential Retail vs. Traditional Retail

As traditional retail puts their consumers in the role of a spectator, experiential marketing typically uses hands-on activities to create personal interactions with their customers - including free classes to food and beverage tastings, to pop-up stores, art galleries and even parties.

The main difference between traditional and experiential retail is that customers get to actually do something in-store, rather than just buying something. There may always be the option and incentive for a customer to head to the check out with a product, but experiential retail gets their visitors involved by doing something interactive. As a result, it's a more engaging experience - one that will help people to remember and even recommend your brand for months to come.

Brands are starting to take a more advanced approach with experiential retail by staying flexible in order to attract their diverse target consumers. This style of retail marketing aims to provide value across four different categories, including:


Retailers -

Retailers usually focus on meeting the expectations of consumers who are drawn to quicker service and convenience. They allow their customers to compare the current online rates of the products with in-store prices and even allow them to get a fast self-checkout in under sixty seconds - implementing technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID) makes this possible. Consumers have the ability to access product information and billing instantly when products are put in the RFID tray.

Stores also embed QR codes which are similar to RFID, offering quick payments. You can usually find QR codes for multiple payment services within grocery stores. Brands tend to provide product information by embedding customised URLs into QR codes imprinted on product labels as well for quick access - these technologies have brought high convenience to both brands and end-consumers in many ways.

Immersive Experiences -

Retailers are also experimenting with providing an enhanced customer experience by building immersive environments for their consumers. VR and AR are most commonly used to create an immersive shopping space for online stores, but how do brands do it offline?

As an example, a South Korean optical and sunglasses brand, Gentle Monster, have retail stores featuring themed installations and sculptures that create an atmosphere of a contemporary art gallery for their buyers. To ensure that their customers have an engaging experience, the brand will use fragrances, music and other tactics, whilst switching up the store frequently in order to maintain its freshness.

Omnichannel Strategies & Optimising Last-Mile Fulfilment

Omnichannel strategies will enhance the accessibility of shops to consumers, whilst boosting sales rates across multiple touch-points. By providing broader channels for their customers to engage with the brand, they can improve the consumer experience on the web, mobile and physical stores.

In a report by McKinsey, 94% of B2B decision-makers believe that omnichannel sales strategies are equally, if not, more effective than the sales model that was used before the pandemic - indicating that a majority of consumers have a higher chance of visiting a store if they're exposed to it through multiple channels.

This is showing that omnichannel strategies not only build online traffic, but also significantly work in driving footfalls in a physical store.

Omnichannel retail also allows customers to begin and complete purchases through various channels. For example, click and collect - customers are able to check out the in-store product availability, order and pay online, to then collect from a nearby store. The flexibility makes any buying journey a lot easier for consumers, whilst helping to sustain a healthy relationship between consumers and marketers.

Adapting to changing trends is essential when it comes down to the retail market. This industry has experienced a drastic evolution in all aspects. Whether it's consumer demands, tech disruption or a complete shift in buying behaviours, if you aren't able to keep up with any changes it can become a great obstacle for retailers to thrive in the market.

Last-Mile Fulfilment -

With consumers making an almost-permanent shift towards e-commerce shopping to meet their needs, faster delivery has become a demanded expectation. The global market for last-mile delivery could reach up to $200 billion by 2027, with the increase in online sales.

Curated & Personalised Offerings

Fast-developing companies typically drive 40% of their revenue from personalisation, in comparison to their slower-developing counterparts - which is why product curation becomes essential. Retailers are usually focused on organising unique product selections for their consumers, depending on their interests and the history of their shopping behaviours.

Community -

Community marketing will enable shoppers to enlist others' help in making their purchase decisions. Interacting with other consumers will give them a deeper understanding of the products and services that they're interested in.

Experiential retail is changing how the sector operates, as;

- Brands now prioritise boosting their customers engagement over sales.

- Retailers providing immersive and shareable consumer experiences are now rising dramatically.

- This kind of retail practice can stimulate consumers' purchasing senses, whilst putting effort into addressing customers expectations.

- This is allowing brands to leverage hi-standard in-store services, whilst setting up appealing events.

Experiential retail isn't something that will simply come and go, it's appearing to be the future of how, where, and when we shop.

It's quite evident that today's consumers have much higher expectations than ever before, and experiential retail is becoming the new standard as it delivers the experience shoppers are willing to spend money on.

In addition to being a fast growing and welcoming marketing method, experiential campaigns are proving to be a lot of fun. They help you to interact with existing and prospective customers, whilst getting you out from behind a screen. It's important to consider them as a way to build and retain lasting relationships beyond the initial experience.

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