Is Experiential Marketing the Future of Retail?



The landscape of retail today has moved past just the allure of in-store promotions. With recent developments in Amazon and other monstrous e-commerce platforms, retail marketing has become less about savings and more about the experience. Demands and expectations are ever-changing, and with the significant advancements in technology today, businesses must reconsider how to deliver their products to consumers. 

So, is retail marketing even necessary today? And will shoppers continue to remain loyal to its seemingly outdated business model? Let’s dig deep into why this matters and uncover the truth of today’s retail “experience.” 

What is Experiential Marketing? 

Experiential marketing involves creating a wholesome, well-rounded, and memorable experience for consumers when they interact with a product or service. Moreso, experiential marketing has the potential to spark strong emotional ties within consumers to favor a specific brand (or not). As with many things in life, experiential marketing relies on both set and setting, where the environment created, or retail space has everything to do with the positive or negative associations shoppers should have about a particular brand.

People inherently prefer experiences over anything else. The scope of traditional marketing holds almost no weight against the amassed power of experiential marketing.

The Proof Is In The Pudding 

Experiential marketing works, but how beneficial is it compared to other forms of retail marketing? 

Of certain apparent benefits, it’s been proven that experiential marketing helps tremendously for businesses looking to generate both sales and leads. In a recent report by Factory360, 79% of companies surveyed said an experiential marketing strategy helped increase their sales overall. At the same time, 74% of consumers stated that they were more likely to purchase a company’s product after being part of an immersive marketing experience.

The benefits seem to surpass even those noticeable financial gains. Also, the effect of providing in-store sensory experiences for consumers is that they can mentally attach themselves to your product, an action that’s limited only to retail. When consumers can touch, smell, and see products in real-time, they have the opportunity to create positive associations with your brand.

Launching a unique experience for consumers can create some real attention for a brand. So, we can assume that businesses will gain some significant exposure. Experiences are generally “shareable,” and social media is the perfect place to do so. Experiential marketing works in tandem with social media, where people are likely to share content from their store experiences on Instagram, Facebook, etc. This acts as free online exposure for businesses and yet another great benefit of how dynamic experience-based marketing can be.

Power of The “Pop-Up”

Considering how fast-paced society is today, more shoppers prefer quick and meaningful store experiences over inconvenient ones. That’s why the “pop-up” business model is among the leading examples of how low-cost and effective experiential marketing can be 

This strategy takes the traditional retail approach and spins it on its head. To explain, businesses choose to open experience-based stores for months at a time, usually in central locations like cities. With pop-up stores, the intent is to generate as much hype as possible, often in tandem with the launch of a new product. This process allows businesses to move inventory and increase hype around a brand. 

Take a look at some examples of pop-up’s in action, and discover just how effective they are: 

Farfetch

A popular e-commerce platform for luxury goods, Farfetch first dipped its toe in the retail market when opening its Farfetch Store of the Future in 2017. The company centered the store around augmented reality, or AR, to make shopping feel more human-centric.

The company introduced a smart mirror in dressing rooms that allowed shoppers to request alternative sizes, ask relevant questions, and even pay for their clothes. Additionally, Farfetch provided shoppers with a sign-in screen, which could display their purchase history and wishlists. The company also uses this tool to help associates gather data on customer profiles. Farfetch has shown the world exactly how hybrid the relationship between retail and technology can get, and the success it may bring for retailers in the future. 

Vans

Known mostly for its history with skateboarding and iconic “Off the wall” slogan, Vans took its brand identity to the next level by unveiling its House of Vans experience in London in 2018. Giving the word “interactive” a whole new meaning, The House of Vans acted not only as a pop-up itself, but an underground skating destination, where shoppers could socialize through ollies, kickflips, and scrapes.

The complex also housed a cinema, cafe, and art gallery for both skaters and shoppers to utilize along their journeys, painting a vivid picture of Vans’ mission as a brand: to create an unforgettable experience rooted in both culture and collaboration. 

These are just a few of many examples of how an immersive retail experience should look. The bottom line is: businesses must evaluate their values and missions, and translate them into a retail experience that puts those ideals at the forefront.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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