Rise Of Experiential Retail

Engaging with the customers on a one-to-one basis rather than looking at a pure buy/sell approach is the future of retail.

Even before the pandemic struck, the retail industry had begun a transformation. There was no longer a need to step into a store to buy a product. Today, one can buy whatever they want, whenever they want, in fact, even borders and the seven seas aren’t a restriction. All it takes is a click of a button and a good internet connection.

When the industry gurus state that technology has changed the way we shop, the reference is not just to the increasing popularity of online purchases but also to the makeover of brick and mortar stores. The physical stores as they existed – a place where a product or service was sold in exchange of a cost – are facing a moment of reinvention. To survive, they have to offer an experience to the customers that cannot be replicated online. No wonder, physical stores are revamping their stores' layout, services and customer journey to become more of a discovery or experience zone for the brands.

Fragrance Brands: The Pioneers Of Experiential Retail?

Interestingly, what the retail industry is waking up to now, has been the norm in the fragrance sector.

Did you know Coco Chanel started influencer marketing much before it was in vogue? Before the launch of her first fragrance, she invited a group of elite friends to dine with her in an elegant restaurant where she surprised and delighted her guests by spraying them with Chanel No. 5. On the official launch of Chanel No. 5 which was in her Rue Cambon boutique, she infused the shop's dressing rooms with the scent. The success of Chanel No. 5 was immediate.

It’s a challenge to sell fragrances online, especially new ones, as the customer cannot decipher the fragrance through the sight of the bottle or the list of ingredients. That’s why fragrance brands are always looking at innovative ideas to immerse the customer in the brand journey.

Experiential Retail Is Immersive And Instagrammable

Big brands are investing heavily into creating experiential flagship stores that offer more than just products. These spaces are aesthetically designed which inspire social media worthy pictures. Unlike in the past, where the staff was meant to put on a snobbish air and entertain only those who had potential to buy, now luxury brands are becoming more inclusive. They are not averse to the idea of people visiting these stores just for the Instagram pictures, which in turn introduces them, and others (their followers), to the brand. Most brands are finally acknowledging that user-generated content is a cost-effective way of marketing and engaging with customers.

Discovering The Brand Through Sensorial Experiences

Stepping in a store is no longer need-based rather it’s driven by a desire to experience something new. In an absolutely clever marketing strategy, Casper Sleep, a US based e-commerce company, created the Dreamery in New York, a space where the city-tired population can take a 45-minute nap for $25. Here is a store where you can pay to sleep in a private sleeping pod using Casper mattress, sheets, and pillows, along with a fully-equipped bathroom to freshen up after your nap.

So, while people may not end up buying the mattresses, they are getting an entry into the calming world of Casper.

This reinvention holds true for the entire sector, not just the big or luxury players. Even the relatively smaller brands have to engage the customers in their story and get them as an insider.

Not just in malls and stand-alone stores but in airports as well brands have to take steps towards products that offer an experiential dimension, specially to match the customer expectations in the travel retail segment.

Service Is The Key

While Instagram-worthy spaces are trending at the moment, what cannot be ignored is the quality of service. Experiential retail also includes making shopping easy, quick and convenient for the customer.

Engaging with the customers on a one-to-one basis rather than looking at a pure buy/sell approach is the future of retail. Whether it is entertainment, discovery, convenience, picture-worthy interiors – the question the brands should ask is – what can our brick and mortar retail space offer the customers which they can’t access online?

The author is Rajiv Sheth, Founder & CEO of All Good Scents

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