As more and more retail transactions shift online, brands and brick-and-mortar stores are working to entice shoppers back into physical spaces through unique experiences. The state of the retail industry has been in the headlines for the better part of a year – as of Q3 2017, US retailers had announced 3,000 store openings but 6,800 store closings. To alleviate the retail-pocalypse, there are a few ways that brands are working to enhance the in-store experience.
Although Amazon is predicted to be 50% of all e-commerce sales by 2021, most of Gen Z prefers to shop in-store. With half of Millennial and Gen Z shoppers saying that they’re more likely to visit stores that have entertainment or food options, experiential retail looks to be a large part of the future of brick-and-mortar shopping. Several retailers have started offering experiences that can’t be matched online and are more personalized than those that can be found in most stores. Some examples include:
- The automotive industry jumped on the trend early, with Cadillac opening up the Cadillac House in New York’s Soho neighborhood in 2016. Surprisingly, few car models are on display and the space includes art, a café and a small fashion boutique. Brand ambassadors direct interested car buyers to dealerships in the area. The move introduced Cadillac to New Yorkers – typically not the most car-friendly audience – as a lifestyle brand as opposed to an automotive brand.
- Barneys partnered with High Snobiety for The Drop event at its Madison Avenue flagship. Over the course of one weekend, Barneys released collections from streetwear designers every hour; guests could meet designers, DJs, and tattoo artists as well.
- Last summer, Unilever opened a St. Ives “Mixing Bar” pop-up storefront in Manhattan. The store offered lotions, bath products and personalized scrubs from the brand. Unilever partnered with Island Records to provide live in-store entertainment. It was so successful in the summer of 2017 that the store has re-opened it from June through mid-September of this year.
- Macy’s, the venerable department store that’s currently facing hard times, has turned to pop-up installations, including yoga classes meant to attract Millennials. The retailer purchased Story, a small boutique shop that specializes in experiential retail, in hopes of refreshing the brand.
- Despite warnings about in-person retail transactions shrinking, more and more online brands are going offline. Sustainable clothing brand Everlane recently opened its first brick-and-mortar locations and Amazon surprised consumers this year by opening physical locations without cashiers, recreating the easy Amazon checkout experience inside a brick-and-mortar space.
Physical activations aren’t limited to CPG, automotive or retail brands, however. Brands that typically don’t operate in the retail world can take advantage of this as well by thinking outside the box. For example, to introduce the Google Home Mini, which is about the size of a donut, Google created mobile donut shops in cities across the country including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. And Netflix promoted the 2016 reboot of “Gilmore Girls” by opening up Luke’s Diner pop-ups nationwide, recreating the interior of the beloved show hangout for fans.
Being successful in a retail landscape that’s rapidly changing means being agile, thinking outside the box and knowing your customers well. Empty retail storefronts, mobile installations, and blank spaces in established properties provide an opportunity for brands to make an impact and introduce themselves to potential customers, without having to commit to a long-term lease or a physical presence. It’s a way to grow their business through face-to-face interactions – a way of meeting potential customers that, despite what many believe, isn’t going away anytime soon.
Online retail transactions don’t involve making memories. No one can remember the time they logged on to a website or app and ordered something. What people do remember is the great experience they had at a pop-up or the shot of the store’s interior that they were able to share on Instagram with their friends. With our ability to make memories that mean more, we’re excited to see what’s to come in the retail field and how we can make it better.