How Brands are Leveraging Experiential Retail to Re-define Customer Experience
How Brands are Leveraging Experiential Retail to Re-define Customer Experience

The future of retail is dynamic and exciting – rooted in the re-imagination of engagement channels, disruption of business models, and innovations in technology.

What we foresee continuing is for brands and retailers to compete to redefine customer experience (CX) and engagement strategies. And the future play of digital channels? They will continue to be primary modes for customer inspiration, information, engagement, and purchase. However, the physical stores aren’t going anywhere. Instead, the store of the future is expected to evolve in its role and capitalize on tech advancements to deliver ‘retailtainment’ – the coming together of shopping experiences and entertainment.

Why Experiential Retail is Gaining Traction

Experiential retail, as the name suggests, focuses on ‘experience building’ in brick-and-mortar (physical/offline) stores. It hinges on the premise that ‘touch and feel’ or visual and sensory delights engage shoppers and enhance their experience. This gives shoppers a reason to interact and spend more time with a brand, even if they aren’t buying its products. And not only does that enhance brand recall, but it also boosts consumer willingness to try the company’s products or services eventually.

Today's shopper invests an equal emphasis on experience as they do on quality and price. According to the recent State of the Connected Customer report, 88 percent of customers believe a user experience is as essential as its products or services. Stores are transforming from shopping destinations to experience centers. Many are building creative experiences in the form of digital signages, gamification, pop-ups, experimentation with AR-VR-led trials, and cashier-less checkouts.

For instance, brands like Puma, provide state-of-the-art offerings at their experiential stores - including F1 simulators and a personalization studio with a cutting-edge embroidery and printing machine. The stores also showcase interactive retail screens and wall art that doubles up as games. On the other hand, Enrich, a beauty salon chain across India, launched its first, all-inclusive beauty store in Mumbai last year. Replete with beauty bars that provide personalized skincare consultations, the store also offers mini-makeovers and makeup tutorials. 

These innovative approaches to experience shopping provide numerous advantages, including enhanced brand involvement with communities and individuals, a boost to brand loyalty, increased store traffic, and a method for testing new ideas and receiving direct feedback from clients. Most importantly, the ability for customers to interact with and physically inspect products leads to more recommendations and word-of-mouth marketing.

Technology Backed Immersive and Interactive CX

While shopper sentiment and behaviors are evolving, the demand for intimate and engaging shopping experiences remains strong. Retailers are creating more involved and sensorial CXs through technology-based innovations. 

Technologies such as 3-D body mapping and try-on tech enable shoppers to experience a look created just for them in real-time. Self-service kiosks and contactless check-outs bring the convenience of online shopping to a physical store. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, combined with predictive analytics, help personalize the shopping experience (e.g., guiding shoppers to the store section that stocks products of their choice or size). Augmented and virtual reality are the building blocks behind several unique experiences like product demos, smart mirrors, and virtual assistants providing fashion advice. 

Build a Winning Experiential Retail Proposition

Experiential retail has found its way into many product categories, including home décor, fashion, accessories, athleisure, sportswear, and beauty. Retailers must use the tools at their disposal to ensure that customers who come into their stores are offered experiences beyond traditional ones. Here's how retailers can create winning experiential retail strategies.

Harness Consumer Data - It starts with the ability to harness consumer data to business advantage. The more you know your customers, the better you can shape their experience. From data around store footfall, consumer behaviors and responses to keeping track of their product searches paves way for retailers to craft engagement strategies, and fine-tune portfolios that resonate most with each individual shopper.

Lead Generation - Another crucial lever is lead generation. Customers may not always purchase products in-store but with innovative store layouts and concepts, retailers can trigger their shopping journey, and incentivize them to continue it online. The objective of experiential retail is to leverage offline channels as the start of long-term omnichannel engagement. 

Exclusive Experiences - Apart from these, offering exclusive experiences is a great way to reward and build a loyal customer base. Allowing top-tier customers first access to curated styles, information, perks, separate store areas, and portfolios helps build immersive and brand-relevant experiences that customers love. 

Using Technology - And most importantly, using technology to build a single source of customer truth across channels, makes it easier for customers to interact with the brand; be it in-store or online as they get to enjoy a seamless phygital experience across touch-points. 

The Way Forward

Experiential retail isn’t just a buzzword – it is the future of retail as we know it. With the meteoric rise of online shopping, customers may not always purchase in-store. However, they will still value real-world interactions with brands. That said, the nature of these interactions will change. And so will the role of the store in the customers’ journey. 

The best experiential retail strategies will focus on delivering memorable and repeatable shopping experiences that drive long-term value and relationships.

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