Still looking at competing with Amazon and other e-commerce? Sorry to inform you - that’s a pointless exercise, as the behemoths don’t mind racing to the bottom to win market share. However, there still lies a plethora of possibilities for redefining your brand.
Customer’s experience and Brand’s focus is the next game-changer in this era of hyper-competitive retail. I still remember those comfy husband chairs in the traditional stores where my father used to sit when my mother went shopping. The reason is quite overt. Men mostly hate shopping but were obliged to visit stores with their wives. But now it’s an outdated idea based on both obsolete visions of gender stereotypes as well as conventional retail. It’s time to bid adieu to husband chairs and welcoming Experiential Retail. This will be probably the reason that your father sat on those chairs, but your grandson will never will!
Re-inventing the ways stories are told
Many designate this era as the apocalypse of brick and mortar stores as there is a strong notion that e-commerce has increased its footprint in terms of market value. But consumers today are more inclined towards Research Online and Purchase Offline (ROPO) format. Gone are those days where stores were meant to only buy and transact. Experiential retail delivers multiple touch-points which provide 360-degree influence on the consumers at different stages of the purchase journey along with multi-channel experience.
In this world of 'Wanderlusters', experiential retail is the trending mantra and soul of the retail renaissance which is very well proven by none other than Starbucks. In comparison to a homemade coffee, Starbucks has been successful in charging customers 15-20 times more in terms of experience and ambience and dreams of making the “third place” in people’s life after home and work. Whether it’s about selling books or boots, cosmetics to cars, creating a multi-sensory stimulation, act of discovery and a reason to believe is the indispensable need.
Online Retail: Discovering Differences and Developing Possibilities
It’s quite likely that consumers are more enticed to buy a product that they have tried. But when it comes to online retail, convenience, online reviews, and free shipping are the biggest selling points. However, with aggregate retail sales valued at 5 trillion dollars, online sales only contributed 526 billion. A study conducted by Eventbrite in 2014 found that 78% of millennials would prefer to spend money on a desirable experience over a desirable object. This may be the reason for which pure e-commerce players like Amazon and Warby Parker have decided to open physical stores or invest in companies having offline presence resulting in so-called O2O commerce (online-to-offline).
Capitalising the instant gratification with no waiting, controlled shopping through click-and-collect, ship-from-store, and partnering with third parties like Postmates, Zomato would help in seeing the customer experience as an ongoing relationship instead of a single transaction. This calls for retail software systems like Erply, which offers a point of sale technology and inventory controls at real time.
The Way Brands Do It
Immersion is the best way of inserting a new product in the context of a customer’s lifestyle, thus influencing the purchasing decision by making them feel it. Eddie Bauer, known for its winter apparels have designed an 8-foot room with climate controls and high-powered fans stimulating wind chill for its customers to test and experience apparels at extreme conditions. With a lot of buzz around augmented reality and virtual reality, Lenskart has provided options for 3-D trials on the online platform itself. Supplementing this, Marriott provides virtual tours to the customers of its hotel properties in Hawaii and London.
There always arise cases where many potential customers don’t come to stores because of pushy sales associates. In response to this, Walmart has “Check Out With Me” in streamlining the buying and payment process. Calvin Klein with Amazon Fashion pop-up has furnished its Trial rooms with Amazon Echo devices for responding to consumer’s query.
An emotional connect always incentivises the customers to come back and share their stories with their friends. Rebecca Minkoff’s stores elevate it one step further with touchscreen walls and fitting rooms outfitted with magic mirrors that enable customers to view diverse styles and colors of clothes, change mood lighting, and order free beverages with self-checkout systems that use RFID chips and iPads. Even Car brands like Audi, Lexus and Volvo offer VR experience to potential customers that show off their vehicles in a personalised way and test driving virtually for building brand loyalty.
Personalised shopping experiences through data-driven creativity delight the customer. Customer segmentation and behavior analysis using predictive analytics tools help in retrieving customer information when the customer enters the website or an offline store. May it be printing the customer name on the product in Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign in Australia or re-imaging your home with Asian Paints Visualiser, such experiences deliver immersive shopping experience services to retain increased foot traffic.
What’s Next: The Road Ahead for Retailtainment
Commonly referred to as Retailtainment (Retail + Entertainment), experiential retail is on the verge of renovation bringing the best of both the worlds of online and offline retail into a unified success through synergy. With utmost competition and limited opportunities for consumer interaction, brands must offer the richness of one-on-one exchanges with creative digital engagements, thus revamping the business selling beyond the price and valuing customer relationships.