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Experiential Retail

4 Steps to Drive Retail Sales with Experiences (Part 1 of 3)

Experiences are indeed a great differentiator that allow us to draw traffic inside your retail location. The competition is stronger than ever in retail – between subscription service companies and eCommerce websites, there are plenty of choices when it comes to how and where they spend money and time. 

A strategy that employs experiences, is something that an online retailer will never be able to deliver on.  When executed well, it can drive sales, brand, and memorability – all of which lead to brand loyalty.

If you are not doing any in-store experiences, below are some tips to help get this jump started.  For the retailers that opt to do the same thing the same way, moving forward it can cause the upcoming years to be rough for your retail business.

One reasons experiences are so attractive is because of the challenges that all retailers face with the online onslaught. When somebody makes a purchase from your online store there is an instant dopamine hit from the initial purchase and even more dopamine as the anticipation builds over the following days prior delivery. Every brick and mortar customer gets the same hit initially but does not get the second hit of dopamine from the anticipation from the impending delivery.  When walking out with the item in hand, dopamine is only produced 1 time.

To put it a different way, every shopper that buys from your store online is on a high from the time they place the initial order, to the moment when they are opening the package at home and then using the item. For eCommerce retailers, this is great news, but the downside of this is much steeper if you get this process wrong with your retail brick and mortar location.

The in-store experience must be exceptional moving forward.

To stay competitive, you need to give them compelling reasons to come down to your store and shop. Looking for ways to do just that? We have compiled 8 tips with case studies to get things started.

1. Make it Fun and Interactive

It’s one thing to see a picture of a product (printed on a box on a shelf), but it’s a completely different thing to get hands on with a product and try it out.  The odds of a purchase go up exponentially.  One of our clients, Dometic, saw a significant increase in product sales when they transitioned to allowing their customers to try out a cooler, refrigerator, exhaust fan or stove. They took the products out to the box and moved them to endcap kiosks that allowed customers to get hands on and experience it before they purchased it.  We accomplished this by creating customized kiosks that put their products on the endcaps allowing customers to be interactive and try out the products.  The first step was to design, prototype, and beta test to ensure the experience resulted in increased sales.  Once it was confirmed that the design was working, the new way of displaying their products was rolled out nationally in over 200 retail stores. 

If you are allowing your customers to experience your products, you are well on the way to increasing sales. If you have not made this transition, you might consider this addition and watch for the results.  Take some time to figure out how you can present your merchandise in unique and experiential ways.  One of my colleagues just returned from a board game trade show in Germany, and the number one method of engagement was to allow consumers to try the game out (in a condensed version of course).  The principle is simple and can applied so many different ways.  Allow people to become comfortable with your products and have a bit of fun with it.

The same gaming manufacturer promotes gaming tournaments at their retail outlets.  I have personally participated in several of these tournaments and not one time have I not purchased something from the store. 

From flat screen TV’s to toys, they are all openly put in front of us to experience.  It allows adults and children alike to interact, observe, and literally play with a dump truck or Lego blocks in-store. In addition to putting the toys out where kids can try them out, you can have associates at the stores also offer toy demos so customers can try them before buying.

Lowes and Home Depot are also doing this by offering a “Build a Toy” option certain times of the month, encouraging hands-on fun for kids and parents alike. Several retailers are adopting a plethora of options for kids in a designated area where they can play video games, color and draw. This allows the children have some fun while parents browse the store.

2. Become the Hip Place to be

Starbucks has really set the standard for finding ways to get people through the door and have found a way to make their stores a trendy place to hang out.  The lesson here is no secret, their method works and in light of the current onslaught in the marketplace of online retailers, brick & mortar retailers have had to get innovative to draw customers in.

This is the reason why there’s been so much attention given to experiential retail stores.  Cracker Barrel stores have done an excellent job of combining a shopping experience with a dining experience and it works very well for them. Following suit, Target often has a Starbucks coffee shop as well as other fast food options in their stores.  Other retailers are also making similar moves, such as Tommy Bahamas where I recently met a client for lunch.  Offering restaurants within some of their brick-and-mortar stores appears to be working well.

We have seen this go on for decades in the grocery industry with sampling.  The increased sales are there to support the practice of sampling – it works.  From Kroger to Publix to Costco – they all practice sampling and it gives a boost to their sales. 

Brand retailers are taking experiential retail to the consumers.  I recently visited a Nike outlet store and the store has become very experiential, allowing you try out foot ware and equipment prior to purchasing.  It has been quite the buzz around Nike’s Live concept that not only offers services like style consultations, but also the ability to try out products.

From Camping World to Nordstrom to Smile Direct Club – countless other brands have jumped on the bandwagon as well, realizing that engaging with customers and “activating” their experiences will lead to an increase in top line sales.

3. Have Your Brick & Mortar Work with Your Digital Stores

Most brick & mortar stores have an online store, so ensure that your ecommerce site works hand and glove with your physical stores. Keep in mind, the modern shopper is using various channels and devices in their shopping experiences. They’re using their smart phones, tablets, and laptops to conduct research, ultimately making a purchase.

This is exactly why it’s important to not just have a presence on different channels (which is critical), but you need to empower shoppers to shop across physical and digital channels easily.  Here are a couple of steps to take to do just that:

Try In-Store Pick Up

In-store pick up allows shoppers to purchase online and pick-up the order at the store.  It isn’t just convenient for the consumer; it also brings foot traffic into your physical location. The statistic that stands out to me related to this was that according to ICSC, 69 percent of shoppers who went in store to pick up their orders ended up buying additional items.

Even more telling was the fact that in the last Christmas season, almost one third of consumers chose to use in-store pick up.  When I do an in-store pick up with my purchases, I have to say that it is without fail that I enter the store to make additional purchases.

The next question becomes, how can I do in-store pick up? The key to starting this up is to have a centralized retail solution that lets you manage orders, sales, and customers from one system… or at least integrate any separate systems.  The common phrase you will hear passed around is “omnichannel” retail systems that allow centralization.

Have your website access in-store

This can be accomplished a couple of different ways.  Start with having a kiosk or designated area people can hop on your website, in turn enhancing the brick-and-mortar experience by allowing consumers to browse your online shop in store. There are several advantages to this offering, especially if you have multiple locations, or showrooms and you don’t inventory all of your stock in one location.  Giving people the freedom to browse your ecommerce site in store allows them to see inventory of products or variants that you may not have on-site. Shoppers have great flexibility if they happen to see something they want, and you can help the customer get it ordered and ship it directly to their house.

Athletic apparel and footwear companies such as Nike are doing this well in select locations. The sportswear company has installed large touchscreens so shoppers can browse to see color and size options and place an order right there in the store.

4. Hold Classes

You can start small by hosting in-person events at your brick-and-mortar location. Perhaps teach customers how to use your products or a lifestyle-focused workshop on a skill relevant to your niche. For example, one of our clients is a manufacturer of stainless-steel cookware and cutlery.  Bobby will hold classes at their facility, at retailer locations, and even at county fairs.  The sales jump is truly remarkable where the classes are held.