Experiential retailing is here to stay

January 23, 2019

What does the consumer want? This is the question which still remains an enigma for marketers. Recent years have seen a dramatic makeover with online and e-commerce industries and companies making a beeline to ‘catch the customer’ first and this sweeping change has created a disruption of the traditional brick and mortar store models succumb and re-innovate to go online. 

The fact remains that creating customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, customer delight, customer experience is a dream every marketer wishes still remains elusive. As the line between online and the bricks and mortar model is diminishing and marketers are recognising the seamless channel which blends both the brick and mortar model with e-commerce has prompted them to make changes in their budgets, advertising, marketing, and inventory to allow this integration. The bottom line is still whether ‘experiences’ can be created as still while most of the stuff desired by people can be bought online, they still flock to ‘brick and mortar locations to enjoy ‘experiences’.

In the present landscape, ‘fauxsumerism’, is termed as the latest millennial trend as it has created a new generation of knowledgeable customers, who look and love to browse online without making any purchases. According to WWD survey, they discovered a generation of shoppers who would spend hours browsing without making a purchase and would commit only till they get the best deal or option.

Shoppers are now backed with information they have procured online but would visit the nearest store as they would like to have a hands on experience before they seal the deal. This tiny gap has given the retail industry a new breakthrough termed as ‘Experiential Retailing’. Retailers here seek to create memorable in store experience in creating an ambience and environment which will delight customers. Personalised services coupled with a host of amenities like 3D experiences using creative technology enabling artificial intelligence, spas, restaurants, nail and beauty salons, art galleries, comedy shows, plays etc. which not only cater to the requirements of the customers but also entertain, humour and engage them are escalating shopping to a new level.

The PSFK survey report conducted on 400 retail stores in November 2018 revealed that a major percentage of retailers by 2020 will include in their budgets the concept of in-store experience. JLL Retail announced their ‘Six Dimensions Of Retail Experience’ which unveils a set of universal benchmarks on how well retailers meet shoppers expectations, which consist of being intuitive, the existence of human element, shoppers having a sense that the brands match their expectations and thereby being meaningful, innovative and unique which not only coupled with being visually stimulating must be aesthetically designed and personalised. According to their report Apple, Victoria’s Secret, Ultra Beauty, Bath and Body Works, Ikea are the top 5 from a long list of retailers who have recognised the secret of creating in-store experience. Thanks to such initiatives, shoppers are now drawn to several activities where shopping is made more appealing and personalised. The opportunity for shoppers to feel, touch, see, use and indulge in the commodities before they are bought make them feel pampered and wanted unlike online shopping.

With the myth that online shopping is the only best solution by e- companies to attract, and retain customers is broken by Amazon which opened its first physical store in Seattle. Other retailers who are leading the way using experiential retailing and creating a new revolution with unique customer encounters are Samsung, Starbucks, GAP, Zara, H&M and many more. Backed by innovative and creative initiatives and solutions, brands like these are seeking such offline solutions and time will indicate if this fairytale filled with addressing consumer pain points coupled with innovative solutions, strong technology, superb distributor networks and large volume low price strategy will create magic and revolutionise the retail industry. Till then consumers like me can relax, sit back and ride high with what is being offered and enjoy the ride as long as it lasts.

Dr Yaseen Ghulam is dean of postgraduate studies and research, Al Yamamah University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Dr Kamini Dhruva is professor, ABBS, Bangalore, India.