Experiential Retail Now Focuses on What’s Happening Behind the Scenes
In a larger-than-life Broadway theatrical production, the audience can often take for granted what happens behind the curtains to produce a stunning show. Instead, they bask in the delight of the show before their eyes.
In retail, it’s not all that different. Shoppers tend to focus on the shelves or delightedly engage in the many ways the physical store has grown to put on a good show. But looking ahead, what will drive the retail experience and delight shoppers is what’s happening behind the curtain.
Experiential Retail Gets Personal
In a growing age of personalization and omnichannel shopping, experiential retail will be characterized increasingly by how retailers deliver a one-to-one, customized shopping experience. Consumers will be more impressed by how well a retailer knows them when shopping than they will be with a grand generalized experience.
To be clear, this isn't to say that an exciting experiential retail strategy won’t continue to drive foot traffic. Recently, grocers, for example, have added bars serving local craft beer and wine, food halls with restaurant-quality meals, and spectacular displays that make shopping feel like “retailtainment.”
All these experiences matter, but a growing focus will be placed on technology that assists consumers in navigating that experience and optimizing how they shop, while helping the retailer know who is shopping and what are their behaviors and preferences. The focus will move beyond producing extravagant store designs to a new level of maturity in delivering a memorable shopping experience through artificial intelligence and personalization that powers targeted customer insights.
The New Retail Experience
So, what levers will retailers pull behind the scenes? There are many tactics for retailers to explore, particularly through the power of AI to guide a shopping experience. Here are three examples:
1. Recommending products while shopping.
AI has the power to combine several data inputs to know who a shopper is, what they buy, how and when they buy. Retailers can factor in a shopper’s purchase history, loyalty information, location (down to where they are in-store), and additional data streams to automatically trigger a personalized mobile notification or offer for a relevant product nearby.
Consider that experience: Yes, endcaps and displays will spur impulse purchases, but a mobile notification targeted to a shopper’s dietary restrictions, their location in-store, and whether they spend more for sustainable products is truly experiential retail.
2. Executing a more efficient shopping experience.
AI-powered personalization can also understand a consumer’s purchasing patterns and what types of communication resonate most with them. For example, a retailer can use data insights to know that a shopper prefers to buy bulky cases of soda for delivery as opposed to when shopping in-store.
3. Meeting inventory expectations.
Optimizing inventory on the shelf to meet the needs of online orders, curbside orders and in-store shoppers is perhaps the most important element of a positive retail experience. Frequent out-of-stocks or misplaced items on shelves can diminish the in-store experience. Relying on AI, retailers can manage stock efficiently, replenish products on time, power more accurate demand forecasting, and optimize assortment planning.
Fulfilling Shopper Needs
The primary goal for experiential retail going forward will be to ensure the rising tide of omnichannel shoppers receive an in-store experience that meets their personal expectations, equal to what they want online.
Retailers face a lot of pressure to deliver, but AI can pull them through. The levers retailers pull behind the curtains, using technology such as AI to ensure consumers find what they need in stores and deliver a personalized experience will become an essential part of the retail experience.
Charisse Jacques is the GM and COO of customer and category management solutions at SymphonyAI Retail CPG, a company building the leading enterprise AI SaaS solutions for category planning and supply chain optimization.
Charisse Jacques has over 20 years’ experience of helping retail and consumer-oriented organizations achieve their goals through innovative strategic thinking, data-driven decision making and analytics. She currently serves as GM and COO of customer and category management solutions at SymphonyAI Retail CPG.