DESIGNING AN IMMERSIVE RETAIL EXPERIENCE

DESIGNING AN IMMERSIVE RETAIL EXPERIENCE

March 19, 2020

Keeping Up With Online Stores

Imagine going to a fashion store to buy some clothes. You pick the dress that you like and try it on in front of the mirror. But you get surprised when you see other images in the mirror, besides your own. Images of matching accessories or other wearables appear on the screen, that you might be interested in buying. It is a smart mirror and it knows you well, so the displayed products are chosen based on your interests and past purchases. Not only that, but you can also tap on the mirror to do things like – requesting a different size of the dress, or making payments without even leaving the changing room. This might seem like a scene out of a science fiction movie, but it already is in practice. International chain of fashion retail stores, Farfetch has recently opened a store in London which has features exactly like that. The strategy used by Farfetch here is called “Experiential Marketing”, a much-discussed topic in the world of marketing right now.

As more and more people are accepting the internet as an integral part of their daily lives, online selling platforms are booming. Companies like Amazon and Ali Express are slowing eating away the market share of brick-and-mortar stores. Traditional brick-and-mortar shop owners have now recognized the threat that the online platforms are posing towards their business. They have realized that the online retailers have a selling proposition their on-the-go customer generation cannot refuse- hassle-free, quick shopping. Why would customers want to leave the comfort of their houses for buying things when they can do the same thing online?

Online retail platforms have other advantages in the business. One such advantage- they are more apt in making data-based decisions. These platforms have access to important data like which products their customers have searched online, or which websites they have visited. They analyze the data to understand customers’ purchasing patterns. These platforms have developed algorithms that can accurately predict the purchasing preferences of each of their customers so that each of them can be targeted personally. Whenever you visit Amazon or AliExpress website, the products you are shown are selected based on your interests and preferences, which is derived from your previous searches on the website or other online activities. This strategy encourages impulse buying and leads to higher sales. Also, online platforms are more user-friendly as it takes only a few seconds to search and find your desired products here, which is not possible in a physical store.

To rise to this new competition from online stores, traditional retailers are now focusing on creating physical experiences for their customers. New generation physical stores are now being designed in a way that customers would want to visit these stores- not only to buy things but also to have fun. Innovative technologies are being integrated into these shops to create a hassle-free, futuristic customer experience. Art demonstrations, cultural events, social gatherings are being hosted inside the stores. Some of the world’s biggest retail brands are adopting this strategy, experiential retail, to form an emotional connection with their customers.

 

Ikea

Leading global furniture and home appliances company, IKEA is a pioneer in the art of experiential marketing. IKEA’s stores have recreational facilities which include in-house restaurants, children’s play areas and more. If the shoppers feel tired, they can just take a break and relax inside these stores. On holidays, many people come to IKEA stores with their families, not to buy but to spend some quality time with their families. In 2019, the company launched an innovative campaign where they selected 100 IKEA fans through social media platforms. The fans were then invited to the company’s main warehouse where they participated in a massive sleepover, IKEA provided them with mattresses, pillows and cushions to enjoy a good night’s sleep. The fans were elated from the experience and IKEA attracted huge media attention. These efforts do not directly contribute to sales, but they are the reason IKEA has been able to stay on top of their customers’ minds consistently.

 

House Of Vans

American skateboard manufacturer company, “Vans” applies a similar strategy to engage its customers. The company has stores titled “House of Vans” where street culture, art, music and fashion come to life. The House of Vans store in London consists of a movie theatre, café, art gallery, and live music venue. Also, there are in-house concrete ramps and street courses so that skateboarders can test out their equipment right away. These stores are no longer regarded as places for buying sports equipment, they have become socialization centers where skateboarding fans meet each other and celebrate their passion together.

 

Audi

Leading luxury car brands, Audi has decided to use VR as a means of enhancing their showroom experience. At an Audi showroom, customers can request for a VR headset and have a virtual test-drive of any of their cars. They can drive that car through the serene countryside of a rural French setting, or over the sterile terrain of the surface of the moon – it’s for them to choose. Moreover, Audi cars have thousands of customizable options and millions of possible configurations. But a typical showroom can showcase only a few cars at once. VR technology allows customers to see what each of these customizable options would look like on the car. It took the company for more than 4 years to perfect this system. Their efforts have resulted in an amazing showroom experience for their customers.

 

Zara

Fast fashion retailer, Zara is another company that is trying to step up its game through store innovation. Customers often complain about the long queues in Zara’s checkout booths. To solve this problem, the company launched a “Check-Yourself-Out” facility in its stores. Customers can now use an app to scan product barcodes inside the stores and pay directly from the app. This step has significantly reduced the length of waiting for lines at Zara’s shops. The company has equipped its fitting rooms with RFID technology so that any customer, upon entering the trial room, can scan their product tag and get all information regarding that product on a touch screen. All available sizes and colors of that product are also displayed on that screen and the customer can request a different size without leaving the dressing room. Moreover, there are Augmented Reality based in-store games for customers. All these features make shopping at Zara’s stores both hassle-free and exciting.

 

Space Ninety 8

Space ninety 8 is a concept store launched in New York by multinational fashion brand, Urban Outfitters. The store is another implementation of experiential marketing. Consisting of 5 floors, the building hosts different types of cultural and entertainment activities. The shop has become popular as a “Retailtainment” center in the city, as the owners probably focus more on the entertainment aspect of the place, rather than retail. The store also hosts many independent small retailers, galleries and artists- giving a heterogenous vibe to the place. Launching music albums, yoga sessions, etc. are frequently hosted inside the store, which are additional attractions for locals. There is a bar and a rooftop restaurant integrated into the building. The unique design and theme of the store have turned it into a tourist destination in the locality.

 

Looking Forward

To this date, experiential marketing campaigns of most of the companies have been centered around technological innovation or cultural themes. But sustainability and ethical business should also be made a central theme of these campaigns. The new generation of customers is very much concerned about sustainability. According to a study by the public relations firm, Porter Novelli, almost 87% of educated Gen-Z customers are concerned about sustainable business practices. Making sustainability a core part of your business will certainly be a winning business proposition in the twenty-first century.

When online shopping platforms first came into being, sales of brick-and-mortar stores had dropped. Because there was a growing trend among people for buying things online, instead of visiting physical stores. But recent studies show that the market share of physical stores, in terms of percentage of total sales, is on the rise once again. The strategy of experiential marketing has been successful in slowing down the crushing momentum of online retailers. It proves that physical stores are not going to go out of business any time soon. In Bangladesh, traditional retailers do not fully utilize the power of experiential marketing as online retailers are yet to put up any significant competition for them. But with the growing trend of internet inclusivity, that scenario is going to change very soon. When that time comes, we hope to see Bangladeshi brands create equally creative experiential marketing campaigns as those international retail chains.

 

Written by

Ezaz Ahmed

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