While “omnichannel” has continued be a major buzzword permeating retailers’ strategies as they strive to reach the consumer through every channel, there appears to be a new focus for forward-thinking merchants: the experience.
This “experiential” form of commerce focuses less on the actual products sold; instead it is designed to bring consumers into the retail store while also letting them know that they’re not just entering a “store”. While these new store environments are positioned to help retailers stand out from their competition, they also differentiate the store from the online site.
Experiential retailing isn’t exactly a new concept — promotions and marketing campaigns have been paired with the path-to-purchase for decades now — but retailers are now reinventing concepts and pairing the store with dining, events and activities.
As an example of experiential retailing, look no further than Urban Outfitters, which recently acquired the Vetri pizza chain to introduce in select stores. While the thought of an apparel retailer purchasing a restaurant seems bizarre at first glance, adding an eatery within a store environment does create something not often seen anywhere else — which is precisely the point.
Instead of having to go to the mall to go shopping in one place and then eat dinner in another, consumers could theoretically do both in one trip when they select an Urban Outfitters location.
Another apparel retailer, lululemon, known for its athletic wear, is opening a flagship store in New York dedicated to creating a customer-centric experience that goes beyond the store. In fact, the retailer is dedicating 3,000 square feet of the 11,500-square-foot location as a community “retreat space” for shoppers known as “Hub Seventeen.” The space will enable the retailer to host regular fitness and yoga workshops, as well as a monthly dinner series and a pop-up art gallery.
Similar to lululemon, Japanese home goods and apparel retailer Muji opened a flagship location in New York containing an embroidery station and an “Aroma Labo,” where consumers can choose, mix and purchase aroma diffusers. The customization aspect of this experience — especially for a brand that only has 11 locations in the U.S. — could certainly create a more memorable shopping visit for consumers who in all likelihood have no familiarity with the retailer.
While these retailer examples are only in a handful of select stores, they are all in major urban areas that attract large audiences, with many first-time tourist shoppers walking through their doors. With that in mind, there’s never a better time for retailers to make a great first impression on potential new consumers.
It is time for brick-and-mortar retailers to brainstorm ideas about how to make the store more about visiting and buying, and less about just buying and leaving. Considering that the store is still where the overwhelming majority (90%) of retail purchases take place, retailers have plenty of opportunities to capture the consumer’s imagination. Now, they should go beyond the product and make the store interactive, engaging and most important, fun!