The Great Indoors: How Retailers Are Bringing the Sights, Sounds and Smells of the Outdoors, In-Store
Some people think retail as we know it is dead. But what if the in-store experience encompassed an immersive video wall, virtual golf swing simulator and intoxicating campfire scents? I’d say it’s a game changer. Sports retailers from Dick's to Bass Pro are reimagining the brick-and-mortar experience and re-evaluating the science behind the consumer journey, creating highly experiential in-store environments.
We’re seeing more customized in-store experiences. For example, stores are being broken down into specialized content zones, each area boasting a distinct look and feel that caters to a specific consumer. Hunting environments are rife with the sights, smells and sounds of the wilderness. Cooler king YETI is using crisp campfire scents in its Austin Flagship store to help attract outdoor enthusiasts as well as put its customers in the right frame of mind once in-store.
Beyond specialized content zones that cater to pit masters and anglers, curating the perfect retail experience requires more than sights and smells. There’s a science behind the retail experience that the average, tackle box-toting weekend warrior is blissfully unaware of. Research shows that consumers approach stores at an average speed of eight mph. The typical distance between digital screens is about 14 feet, which means brands have just 2.5 seconds to reel in a customer. Savvy stores carefully consider a consumer's location, pace and specific touchpoints, serving up dedicated messaging and varied digital signage programming depending on the consumer's unique journey within the store.
It’s imperative to consider both purpose and placement — i.e., what the shopper is doing in real time within the store and precisely what they’re searching for. Large video walls near the back of stores pull people through stores more quickly. Consumers trying on the latest hiking boots will typically log more time, providing the perfect opportunity for more robust retail signage. At the register, shoppers are already lined up to make a purchase. This is where retailers should be thinking from an omnichannel perspective, taking the opportunity to plug special membership rewards programs and/or laying down the framework for the next transaction, whether that be in-store or online.
Once a consumer's purpose and intent has been identified, curated signage can be deployed. In addition to directing big game hunters to the right product, there’s intelligence to be garnered from a consumer's entry point into the store. Smart signage is equipped with innovative heat maps and directional signage capable of identifying the path in which consumers are approaching. Furthermore, cameras help provide analytics for retailers — e.g., where products are being removed from the shelves — enabling them to better position a product and quickly fill empty slots when a display is empty.
Beyond smart signage, retailers are realizing the importance of going digital in the brick-and-mortar space. They're borrowing the best of what customers love about e-commerce and translating the technology into the physical retail environment. Lowe's recently started implementing next-generation virtual reality (VR) experiences into its stores. Coined Holoroom How-To, the immersive experience helps weary DIY warriors address home décor hitches, arming them with the skills to tackle home improvement hurdles via VR headsets.
Ultimately, brick-and-mortar stores must serve as a physical and emotional manifestation of the brand. Retailers that are thriving in the marketplace are those that have embraced the reality that consumers are going to increasingly expect more curated experiences. This may include a cohesive mix of sights, sounds and smells, as well as a highly experiential in-store environment with curated content zones, intuitive smart screens and heat mapping. The smartest stores have diligently mapped the consumer journey, from pacing to content creation and specialized programming.
It’s high time retailers serve up the innovative experiences that customers have increasingly come to expect. The result will be more than increased sales in the short term; it has proven to lead to stronger brand loyalty and long-standing connections with consumers.
Trey Courtney is senior vice president and global chief product officer at Mood Media, a company that elevates the customer experience with professionally designed background music, messaging, digital signage, scent diffusers, AV systems, and more.
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