Apr 29/19NEWS

Re-inventing retail through experiences

As sales shift online and the store opening rate declines, stores worldwide are being repurposed to provide differentiation from the online channel. Retailers are dedicating more store space to experiential retail, integrating in-store services, restaurants and events.

Today’s customer is both online and offline. According to a recent Emarsys retail report, 40% of purchases made are through a combination of both e-commerce and in-store but digital is still growing faster than traditional retailers could have ever imagined. South Africa alone passed the R14 billion mark last year.

From the convenience of their couch, consumers are choosing to stock up online. This is why brick-and-mortar retailers need to start looking at physical space differently, and reconsider the role of a store and its inherent value proposition. Experiential retail is a positive disruption. It’s a way to lure consumers back into shops, keeping up with today’s fast-paced, multi-tasking consumer who demands a higher return on investment for their time.

Experiential retail, or ‘retail-ment’, isn’t always bells and whistles. It can also mean redefining retail in a digitally-first world where new platforms and technologies change how we shop, and by asking what can I do offline that can’t be done online? And, how can I further enhance that experience?

The commercial experience of the store today needs to be more specific and more tailored…” explains Bryan Gildenberg, Kantar Consulting’s chief knowledge officer, at a recent GIBs retail insights conference. “Creating a theatrical experience is for a very small percentage of stores and categories.”

Hamleys, a UK-based toy retailer with flagship stores in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and North America, is well-known at looking at unique ways to attract consumers. Their experiential offering is out of the ordinary. From being able to slide into a store to an express train which chugs through the mall, customers flock to Hamleys to experience its magic.

But interactive – and often expensive – experiences don’t need to be replicated across the board. In-store, retailers should look to redefine their consumer experience by repurposing their stores to provide differentiation from the online channel. This experiential inspiration is often lead by brands who are already developing their own experiential retail concepts, through independent pop-ups, in-store retail partnerships and promotional events.

From coffee shops in supermarkets and bookstores, to nail bars and beauty clinics in popular pharmaceutical chains, experiential retail often means personalising the shopping experience of a consumer in real-time. Addressing the needs of your customer base may be as simple as acknowledging that they want to fuel up while picking up essentials – that’s engagement, connecting a consumer to your brand, and ultimately giving them a good in-store experience.

Most of a good retail experience is in it not being bad,” adds Gildenberg. “Minimising the outages and creating a frictionless experience is incredibly important.”

There’s a lot of room for innovation in experiential retail. For some it’s a show – sensory, interactive and technology-driven. For others, it’s simply about offering an all-in-one space to satisfy a consumer’s offline needs. What really matters in experiential retail is creating carefully thought out spaces and a seamless shopping experience.