Experience stores on road to become the next big thing
Experience stores on road to become the next big thing

As online retailers leverage new technology on ecommerce to create unique shopping experiences, the brick and mortar retailers too are not very far behind in bringing digital experiences to the stores. Experiential stores are picking up trend and retailers are not shying away from creating unique shopping experiences at stores, writes Shwetha Satyanarayan

Walking into stores is not just about touch-and-feel, try-and-pay any more. A relaxing corner with couches to read a book, a dietician to tell you what to buy before you pick up any organic goodies and a salon to complete your new look when you purchase an apparel.The experiential stores are now making shopping fun, and not just transactional.

Big names lead the way
For instance, Fabindia’s recently launched Experience Centre in New Delhi, not only hosts a complete range of clothing, home and lifestyle products, but also has an interior design studio, an organic Indian wellness centre, alteration studio, kids zone and a café. At the wellness centre, a dietary counsellor advises customers on organic products they can buy, as well as a wellness room, where you can get a head massage after shopping. If successful, Fabindia plans to roll out 40 such centres across the country over the next 18 months.

Reliance Retail which has launched an experiential store in Mumbai under the brand name Project Eve creates experience through in-store salon, personal stylist, plush trial rooms with lounge area along with a curated collection in apparel and beauty. Reliance has aggressive plans of expansion for the new premium retail format and plans at expand its reach to top 10 cities across the country. The format will also have a café in its standalone stores in future.

Commenting about this trend of digitization in retail stores, Landmark group Executive Director Vasanth Kumar says millennials want digitized way of life experiences and they don’t mind spending money on experiences. “Digitization has stepped into every aspect of life and there’s no looking back now. Retailers should look at ways to enable shopping anytime, anywhere,” he says. With this mantra in mind, Max Fashions has launched a smart kiosk at its store in VR Mall, Bengaluru, which connects its customers and eases shopping through technology. With an instant catalogue on big screen, customers can search if apparel in a certain size is available in the store or not. If unavailable, order can be placed in the kiosk and the product will be delivered to the customer’s house.

The American counterparts
In a big step ahead, US retail giant Amazon has already introduced Amazon Go- a scan and pay option which enables no check-out purchase for its customers. According to Amazon, technology detects when items are removed or returned to store shelves. The app will automatically bill the customer with the help of card details saved in a customer’s account, when he exist the store.  

Walmart which is working on the similar and scan and pay option is all set to bring this feature in its Indian stores too. “Only when physical and digital are merged can the shopping experience be enhanced. Retailers have to innovate with intention to change and impact. The offline and online have to work seamlessly,” says Hari Vasudev, VP (Technology), Walmart Labs, India.

Innovate on brick and mortar
Easy Buy Business Head Anand Aiyer stresses that customer expectations are changing and offline retail will continue to grow when they are digitally transformed. “Nearly 90 per cent of revenue for retailers comes from offline stores. When these stores bring digital experience, it will change the way customers visit and shop at stores.  It’s part of creating an eco-system for certain lifestyle. It’s about experiencing the space and not just about selling the product,” he concludes.

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