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Experiential Retail: The Next Layer of Customer Engagement

As a marketer on the constant hunt for new knowledge and material, I have subscribed to what seems like every daily or weekly retail newsletter, filled with today’s articles and trends. As you would imagine, a lot these newsletters are focused on the holidays around this time. Among the news about which brands are expected to beat last year’s performance and Black Friday turnout predictions, I noticed a certain theme pop up again and again — Experiential Retail.  

Experiential Retail can be thought of as an immersive retail experience, in which a brand goes beyond the traditional ways of customer interaction to deliver a unique brand experience, rather than just a transaction for a product or service. Retailers have taken note that it takes more than a pre-Black Friday sale to get consumers’ attention. As Gartner puts it,  “customers just want to have fun”, and retailers need to update their engagement strategy in order to directly reach their customers. So what are the different ways brands can do that? In this blog we’ll walk through some brand examples that highlight the different ways experiential retail can add a new layer to your customer engagement strategy. 

     1.Take a Philanthropic approach: DSWGives Do Good Pop-Up

Rather than using a pop-up to sell shoes, DSW is taking a philanthropic approach by hosting a pop-up in New York City that will feature interactive experiences to demonstrate the impact of the company’s shoe donations. This initiative gives customers a chance to contribute to DSWGives, which adds another dimension to their brand engagement, and makes customers feel good when they shop. The next time they go to buy some boots, who do you think they will think of? 

     2. Create a Direct to Consumer Relationship: Tupperware 

For consumer goods brands like Tupperware, a pop-up can do wonders. At the Tupperware pop up called TuppSoho in New York City, consumers can attend food and product demonstrations, purchase exclusive products, and all within a very Instagrammable atmosphere. As a brand that doesn’t have physical retail stores, adding this element to the customer experience is a way for them to get in front of an expanded audience, and just in time for the holidays. 

     3. Play-time & Interaction: Toys R US & Target 

Last year, Target hosted more than 25,000 hours of holiday playtime and events as a way for families and kids to test out toys, and win giveaways. As you may know, earlier this fall Target partnered with Toys R US, to help relaunch their online brand. As a part of that, they will be playing around with the same experiential retail concept by opening up Toys R US Adventure, “an immersive wonderland that celebrates the whimsical, silly and fun of toys”. Giving consumers a chance to interact and experience products in an innovative and unique atmosphere is a smart way to drive excitement around a brand. 

The brands highlighted above aren’t the only ones hopping on the experiential retail bandwagon. Experiential retail is a whole new part of the retail customer experience. Whether it be the Birchbox pop ups in Walgreens, REI’s Outdoor Experiential elements, Nordstrom’s local concept, or Lululemon’s new Experiential store in Mall of America, the basis of it all is that brands have recognized they need to provide an experience that customers want (and it’s clear they are trying pretty hard at it). Driving social change, creating a more direct to consumer relationship and increasing social media engagement, are all tactics that enable brands to not only enhance their brand experience and recognition, but also customer loyalty and overall satisfaction. As the holidays quickly approach, I’m sure we will only be seeing more of these pop-ups. This will be a trend to keep an eye on in the retail world! The follow up question will be: does this drive true customer loyalty?