Experiential Retail: 6 Changes You Can Make to Your Company
Historically, retailers have focused on the industry as an exchange. Customers wanted to purchase products from them, so the best way to secure more customers was to offer the best products or offer products for the best possible price.
Today, the landscape has changed. It’s no longer enough to merely offer good products at good prices. If you want to succeed, and trounce the competition, you have to treat retail engagements as an experience.
Motivations for the Change
Why is this the case? The change can be linked to a handful of developments, but the biggest and most important is the rise of e-commerce. Online stores have more inventory and often the best pricing. Physical stores haven’t been able to keep up, which is part of the reason malls and department stores are closing at an alarming rate.
Physical retail stores can’t compete on price or convenience anymore, so to survive they have to turn to the one thing that online retailers can’t compete with them on: the in-store experience.
How to Treat Retail as an Experience
So what does it really mean to treat retail as an “experience”? Some industry leaders have referred to it as experiential retail, since it refers to all the sensations incorporated into and around the act of purchasing. If you want to stand out from the crowd, people need to be able to differentiate the act of purchasing at your store from purchasing the same product at any other store.
How can you do that?
- Understand your customer. Before you do anything else, work to understand who your customer is. What demographics of people visit your store? What types of experiences do they want? What are their values? Do your market research, and be equipped with this customer-centric understanding before you work on any other strategic elements.
- Offer more product exclusives. Think about what exclusives your brand could carry. For large retail stores, this could be a central “store brand” or a product from a certain franchise that’s only sold at your location. For smaller retailers, this could be a special product or service offered by your staff which bigger stores can’t replicate.
- Develop a strong brand. It pays to have a strong, consistent brand at the center of all your work. Defining your brand's image, voice and values will provide some immediate direction for all your store modifications and advertising campaigns, and will help to differentiate your store from others.
- Make your store unforgettable. Along similar lines, remodel or make changes to make your store unforgettable. Include graphic elements or change the layout so it can’t be mistaken for any of your competitors.
- Optimize the POS. The point of sale (POS) will form your customers’ last impressions of your store, and be a major deciding factor in their choice to return. Optimize it for speed, convenience and friendliness.
- Turn your employees into brand representatives. Each of your employees should be trained and dedicated to showing the best of your brand; they should embody your brand voice, and make a good impression to your customers at every turn.
If you want your physical retail location to survive, you need to shift your focus to prioritize the customer experience, rather than just the price or convenience of your store. It may require a significant investment of time and money, particularly if you’re going to rebrand, but the end result will be a store that no other retailer — including online competitors — can rival.
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who specializes in social media and business development.
Related story: How Experiential Retail is Disrupting an Industry