Experiential Retail and Immersive Shopping

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At a time when customers can make almost any purchase online, many retailers are rethinking the way they approach in-store shopping. Experiential retail is a powerful concept that can turn a brick-and-mortar storefront from a place to purchase items to a place to engage with your brand in innovative, revolutionary ways. It’s all about turning shopping from an everyday occurrence into a memorable experience.

This tactic has helped many retailers stand out from the pack and give customers a truly unique, powerful connection to the brand.

What Is Experiential Retail?

Experiential retail refers to a marketing strategy in which physical retail spaces provide experiences beyond traditional shopping.

Experiential retail refers to a marketing strategy in which physical retail spaces provide experiences beyond traditional shopping. Some are fairly common, like access to knowledgeable associates and hands-on product testing. Others, such as in-store events, communal lounge areas, or art exhibits, are harder to find. Whatever it looks like, these experiences offer a unique form of engagement that draws people in for a reason other than the products.

Some examples of experiential shopping include the following:

  • Classes, workshops, and digital resources
  • Attractive spaces for photo ops
  • Lounges, cafes, and restaurants
  • Immersive digital displays
  • Art exhibitions or studio spaces
  • Celebrity interactions and endorsements
  • Community engagement, like fundraisers
  • Live events, such as concerts and launch parties
  • Assistance or tech support from informed associates
  • Access to new products or up-and-coming technology
  • Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) installations

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a major driving force in experiential retail, facilitating new digital technologies. IoT refers to a myriad of connected devices, like sensors and displays. For instance, digital price tags could connect to your website to show the most updated pricing, while motion sensors might detect nearby customers and start playing a video.

The impact IoT can have on retailers and customers is virtually endless – that’s why it matters and makes it so compelling!

– Matt Wright, Principal Software Architect at Kopius

As you can see, you can use an experiential retail strategy in many ways. The best approach usually depends on your product, audience, and goals. Some brands use interactive retail experiences to appeal to the younger crowd, while others focus on their audience’s interests or shopping habits. However you choose to use it, experiential retail design can drastically change your customers’ connection with your brand.

Experiential Retail vs. Traditional Retail

The biggest difference between traditional retail and experiential retail is the latter’s focus on engagement. Sales are no longer the biggest priority. Instead, the experience focuses on boosting engagement. It’s about creating a positive on-brand experience, building loyalty, and making strong connections with your customers.

For many brands, that includes facilitating close ties with the customer’s digital experience. The in-store experience should feel like it naturally builds upon online shopping, with a consistent and smooth transition between the two. 

Why Is Experiential Retail So Important?

Experiential retail differentiates in-store shopping from the online experience. Nowadays, online shopping usually provides better availability, anytime-anywhere access, and a wealth of options. The in-store environment must stand out with value-added experiences that shoppers can’t get online.

Stores can have various goals for experiential retail, but these immersive shopping experiences are often used for the following:

  • Building loyalty: Giving customers a unique reason to stick with your brand can help build long-lasting loyalty. Connecting in-store opportunities with on-brand messaging builds powerful relationships.
  • Creating share-worthy content: Instagrammable stores are excellent for promoting user-generated content and organic social media interactions. This approach usually works best with gentle encouragement — never make a photo op or a hashtag feel forced.
  • Speaking to customers directly: Some brands use brick-and-mortar locations to learn from and engage with customers directly, through a more natural setting, rather than going through a third-party retailer.
  • Nurturing community engagement: Experiential retail fosters connections among people. The store supports togetherness and may even become a well-respected organization in the community.
  • Engaging the senses: Many brands benefit from giving customers a physical sensation, especially for items like food and beauty products. Experiential marketing provides a setting for people to get hands-on interactions with the product.
  • Helping customers try out the products: One of the biggest reasons people shop at a store is to get an in-person trial. Experiential retail can offer this benefit and go further with in-depth product demos or associate knowledge.

Experiential Retail and Shopping Trends

Many brands align experiential retail design with today’s shopping trends, such as omnichannel shopping and social media engagement. By understanding what drives your customers, you can appeal to their habits. For example, one of the top attributes that consumers look for in physical stores is the ability to use the retailer’s website or app to shop for products they want to find in-store. This integration between digital and physical shopping experiences is vital to many retailers’ experiential approaches.

Other popular trends include influencer marketing, AR experiences, and shopping through social media platforms — which is now the primary way Gen Z likes to discover new products. We designed a data and image processing platform for a teledentistry company that integrated into a modern mobile app. This allowed customers to take “selfies” and see what their smile would look like post-treatment. The end product boosted both customer engagement and conversion! Brands might hold meet-and-greets with influencers, introduce an AR try-on tool, or create share-worthy photo ops for social media. Experiential retail trends often align closely with more generalized shopping trends and the buying habits of a retailer’s customers.

Top Experiential Retail Examples

Many brands are pushing the envelope with interactive retail experiences that engage and delight customers. Here are a few examples of experiential retail stores making waves.

1. House of Vans

The retailer behind these iconic skate shoes has opened up several House of Vans locations in major cities, redefining what it means to be a beloved brand. Instead of a simple retail store, these industrial-looking locations function as venues for skating events, concerts, art installations, and classes. Each House of Vans embodies the culture of its city, and creativity is a key driver. These exciting, unique stores offer a place for the community that helps visitors dive deep into the Vans philosophy.

2. Glossier

Glossier sells beauty products and an Instagram-worthy shopping experience. If you walk into one of their stores, it might take you a minute to realize you’re in a retail space. Glossier focuses on the aesthetics of its spaces and considers the character of the locations it chooses. Its Los Angeles store, for instance, is inspired by old Hollywood. It has glamorous rooms for trying out products and lighting designed for taking selfies.

3. Nike Rise

Nike has fully embraced the idea of experiential retail with its Nike Rise stores. These locations offer a wide range of activities catered to sports fanatics and powered by impressive digital technology. You can find huge screens that span multiple floors with real-time sports moments and member achievements from Nike’s fitness apps. You can also head to Nike By You to customize sneakers and apparel.

With Nike Rise, digital integration is front and center. The locations incorporate strategies like online pickups, returns, and scanning products for more information.

How to Get Started With Experiential Retail

The starting point for experiential retail depends heavily on your business and goals. Working with an experienced digital solutions provider can help you get support every step of the way. The team at Kopius specializes in experience-focused digital products and implements high-impact technologies for retailers of all types and sizes.

We’ll leverage various technologies, including IoT devices, to craft a plan that’s right for your business and goals. Some software solutions, such as Azure IoT Hub and Power Apps, enable powerful functionality, while others, like Power BI and Azure SQL Database, help make the most of your data.

Whether we’re monitoring store traffic, creating interactive displays, or building immersive spaces, our experiential retail technology solutions allow retailers to connect with customers in an entirely new way.

JumpStart your Retail Experience with Kopius

Contact Us to Jumpstart Your Retail Technology Success

Moving forward, experiential shopping will be crucial to connecting to customers and providing a top-tier brand experience online and off. This powerful approach calls for expertise in many areas, from planning and strategy to insights into the customer experience. At Kopius, our nearshore team uses innovation and strategic technology to solve problems and navigate new frontiers. We can help you explore the potential of experiential marketing and revolutionize how you connect with your customers.

Experiential retail depends on the intersection of digital and physical touchpoints, and a seamless digital experience is essential. Whether you want to connect your app to the in-store experience, create an interactive installation, or tackle experiential marketing in another way, Kopius helps you excel. At Kopius, we’ve designed a program to JumpStart your customer, technology, and data success.

Our JumpStart program fast-tracks business results and platform solutions. Connect with us today to enhance your customer satisfaction through a data-driven approach, drive innovation through emerging technologies, and achieve competitive advantage.

Add our brainpower to your operation by contacting our team to JumpStart your business.