It never fails. Every time my husband walks by the Microsoft® store he lets a little laugh and exclaims “wow.” And, surprisingly for him, it’s not from his admiration of all the technology. It’s from all the traffic and activity that keeps the store abuzz, unlike of many of its neighbors.
Some have said the company followed Apple’s lead in its retail initiative. And, that’s fine. Bill Gates once said, “Whether it’s Google or Apple or free software, we’ve got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes.” Still, Microsoft discovered the future of retail stores before many others did. And, it’s pulling out all the stops to keep shoppers coming through its doors.
A quick glance at the events calendar for “my” store lets me know who they’re targeting and how. And, their efforts aren’t run-of-the-mill. For example, Microsoft is engaging gamers through in-store competitions and prizes. One great part of this strategy is that they’re creating a physical community for customers who are typically virtual. This experience can create positive and lasting impressions among participants for the brand.
Kids are another target audience. Microsoft is attracting them, and their parents and educators, through hands-on STEM activities. And, we can’t forget business execs, who need computer hardware and software on every desktop. Through interactive assessments, the brand helps them identify rising cyber security threats. More important, it offers solutions to mitigate them.
In short, the brand is doing exactly what it needs to do to compete in the now and, without a doubt, the future of retail. It’s executing experiential retail and offering consumers what they are drawn to.
Why Experiential Retail is the Future of Retail Stores
Millennials, our largest U.S. generation, have ushered in a new way of spending. Sure, they shop. But, they don’t prefer to spend their money on consumer goods. Instead, they want to buy experiences. In fact, nearly 75% of them prefer a concert or sporting event over the latest fashions. That’s because they’ve discovered an experience makes them happier, and for a longer period. They enjoy the benefits of an experience purchase both in anticipation of and during the event. They’re able to make connections with family and friends in attendance. And, this brings satisfaction after in the form of stronger relationships and joyful memories. Yet, even when brands target a different generation, they shouldn’t discount the need for an experience. It’s reported, over the past 30 years, we’ve seen a 70% increase in “spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending.”
This tells us, despite the state of the retail industry, brick-and-mortar retailers can beat the odds. The need for interpersonal relations gives them a chance to rank among online rivals. By using experiential marketing – or experiential retail – they bridge the gap and give consumers what they want.
Brands That Do Experiential Retail Well
Several brands are raising the bar for experiential retail, while others have yet to take initial steps. Forbes says retailers that realize there’s “no replacement for the sensory touchpoint” in brick-and-mortar locations “will certainly have an edge in the rapidly changing marketplace.” Here are two brands who’ve earned that edge and have solid standing in the future of retail stores.
This luxury department store chain goes above and beyond to deliver an experience customers won’t soon forget. In fact, it understands the value of experiential retail so much, it recently opened its first store dedicated to experience. Dubbed Nordstrom Local, the new, smaller Nordstrom stores will carry no inventory. Yet, personal stylists will assist shoppers with their wardrobes, fulfilling orders online or via nearby, “regular” stores. Also, people can enjoy a cup of coffee, get their nails done, have their clothes altered and see other select merchandise on display.
Meanwhile, back in their original locations, Nordstrom is hosting brands with month-long pop-up shops, generating excitement and traffic. And, it’s even delivering online purchases curbside to offer value and make life easier for its loyal customer base. These are only a few experiential marketing initiatives that keep its stores alive and well.
2. Warby Parker
The eyewear brand got its start – a great, big start – online, growing 500% in its first year. Its success was due to its virtual customer experience and its caring nature for those in need. And, the company’s good deeds paid off, giving it resources to fulfill its unique marketing endeavors. Of their marketing, co-founder Neil Blumenthal said, “For us, it’s more about collaborations, high-concept events, and creating reasons for our customers to tell their friends about us.”
One such initiative was a mobile tour – an experiential marketing campaign dubbed “Class Trip.” Brand ambassadors traveled to nine U.S. cities in a yellow school bus. At each stop, visitors to the bus got to come aboard, where they “met” the brand in-person and tried on products. This was just the beginning. And again, their efforts were fruitful.
The company not only continues to thrive online. It’s also expanded its footprint to more than 60 physical locations and counting. And, its innovative marketing continues with such recent events as an eclipse viewing party and a book launch – both right in line with the retailer’s product offerings.
What Your Brand Needs for Experiential Retail
To move your brand to the future of retail stores, like those above, consider the following two must-haves for great experiential marketing.
1. A solid plan.
Your brand may choose to keep experiential marketing simple with product demos at targeted locations. Or, you may host an event emceed by a celebrity influencer and featuring entertainment, virtual reality and giveaways. No matter how big or small you choose to go, consider every detail, and make a solid plan. This helps ensure shoppers have a good experience. Otherwise, efforts may be a waste of time and money and have a negative impact on your reputation.
2. Professional event staff.
The experience you plan will only be as good as the people who carry out your plan. So, to ensure your highest ROI, invest resources into hiring the best event staff. These individuals should reflect your brand in both looks and personality. Yet, they must also be able to interact well with people and carry out their assigned duties. Many retailers engage an event staffing company to remove the burden and guarantee their success. They ultimately ensure a first-rate experience by hand selecting and training staff. And in doing so, they work to secure your future in retail.
EPS has worked with retailers of all sizes for almost two decades. We know the role event staffing services plays in giving your shoppers the best experience. Download our Experiential Marketing and Retail eBook and take your business into the future of retail.