​Experiential retail as a growing strategy for success

Emerging technologies are enabling retailers to provide engaging in-store experiences for consumers — a key to survival in today's retail market.
20 September 2018

Innovation is key to survival in the retail industry. Source: Shutterstock

For years now, we have heard stories of the apparent decline of the high street and the subsequent rise of the internet.

But while many have viewed this as a trajectory that is impossible to reverse, it can instead be viewed as an opportunity for retailers to rethink their strategies in order to win back the consumer.

Enter: the experiential-retail trend.

Experiential retail has become a buzz word in the retail landscape. In a nutshell, it describes an experience given freely by a retailer in order to create value for their customer.

This experience may be educational, technological, emotional, or entertaining, and involves fully immersing the consumer in your brand and retail story.

We are at a time where consumers are given more product choice than ever before on the internet, with the option of next-day and even same-day delivery. As a result, traditional retailers have no choice but to boost their efforts and find new ways to engage today’s consumer.

Consumers crave experience

Consumers don’t want to just walk into your shop, buy a product and then leave. They could do this in the comfort of their own home, probably with much more convenience and many more options to fit their preferences.

By creating an immersive experience, traditional retailers can drive people into their stores, ensuring customers do not only leave with your products but also memories sure to keep them coming back. And this is something that a website simply cannot offer.

The rise of technology has enabled retailers to push more innovative solutions in their stores and go above and beyond when creating an immersive experience for customers. Here are a few examples of brands winning at experiential retail with the help of technology.

The North Face and Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a technology all about delivering an experience. From the very moment a user slips on a VR headset, they are propelled into a virtual world equipped with audio, video and the ultimate experience.

Immersive content paves the way for brands to transform the customer shopping experience. Source: Shutterstock

Many retailers are leveraging this technology to provide customers with an unforgettable in-store experience while marketing products through a fresh, new channel.

American outdoor product company, The North Face, is an example of a brand using VR to engage their customers.

The brand have ran several virtual reality campaigns in order to elevate the in-store experience across its retail outlets.

Shoppers were able to take part in 360-degree virtual tours of Yosemite National Park and the Moab desert using Google Cardboard glasses. Users could sit in a sledge pulled by a pack of huskies running through a breathtaking snowy landscape.

Charlotte Tilbury and Augmented Reality

Retailers across a number of industries are also rapidly integrating augmented reality (AR) technology into the in-store experience.

This is a smart move considering that 61 percent of consumers have reported a preference for stores that offer AR experiences, and 40 percent of these would pay more for your product if they had the opportunity to experience it through AR.

A retailer which incorporated AR into their in-store mirrors is cosmetics brand, Charlotte Tilbury. The company partnered with augmented retail solutions and software provider Holition, to install AR-powered mirrors in their London store.

Visitors to the store could sit in front of the mirror and have their faces scanned by the AR “magic mirror”. Shoppers would then see their face with ten of the brand’s iconic looks in under a minute- without the need to physically try on any makeup.

Sephora and Machine Learning

One way in which traditional brick-and-mortar stores are attempting to keep up with today’s e-commerce giants is by deploying artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the customer experience.

Using AI, brands can deliver a much more tailored approach to customers- keeping them happy while simultaneously driving up sales.

According to a recent survey, 70 percent of respondents said they would be more loyal to brands who integrated some form of customization into their stores.

With the help of machine learning and big data, retailers can track and analyze consumer behavior and past purchases to deliver a more personalized experience. Not only this, but machine learning can also predict product demand.

Cosmetics company Sephora leverages a machine learning-driven in-store product “Color IQ” that does just this.

The product scans the surface of customers skin and then provides a personalized foundation and concealer shade recommendation.

Since the launch of this technology in 2012, Sephora stores have generated a whopping 14 million Color IQ matches. Through this personalization offering, the company have managed to increase in-store foot traffic and boost customer satisfaction.