The New Age of Retail Tugs at Consumer Emotions
Consumers today are savvy. The traditional hard sell approach doesn’t move products off of shelves and into homes as it once did. However, what shoppers will open their wallets for (across all demographics) is an experience, whether technology-enhanced or immersive. To entice consumers in-store or online, brands must evolve alongside – if not ahead of – consumer purchasing habits and embrace the way they're telling us they want to be served.
For example, consider Toys"R"Us’ relaunch (fueled by new parent company, TRU Kids Brands). In the wake of filing for bankruptcy in 2017, the toy brand has re-emerged, pivoting on its previous standard, traditional format retail model to new concept stores in partnership with b8ta, a software powered retailer, that will offer parents and kids the opportunity to experience highly curated games and toys in a more intimate and more engaging setting. Where the stores are first launching is also interesting. Typically, TRU has had a stand-alone retail presence, but this new format will test at mall locations.
Become a Destination
Becoming a destination is a fantastic way to give consumers a reason to interact with your products. Funko, a collectible brand that prides itself on its deep connection to pop culture, has seen success with its destination store in Seattle, where fans of the brand can receive first access to brand-new products. The store in and of itself is an experience … there’s something to surprise and delight around every corner, and the location serves as a meeting spot for fan clubs, events and more. A second 40,000-square-foot location is slated to open this year in Hollywood, Calif.
Another smart experiential retail activation, according to License Global’s top 5 retail activations of 2018 report, comes from Universal, the company behind the wildly popular "Jurassic Park" movie franchises and licensed goods. One of its latest ventures, Jurassic Park Dinosaurs Roar, is a quality example of how creating a must-experience “store” drives foot traffic. To celebrate the game’s launch, Walmart and AMC Theatres teamed to offer players new in-game content, including an enhanced Walmart-branded supply drop, photo filters and other in-game rewards. Players could also visit AMC Theatres for a specified period of time and find AMC-branded incubators and capsules that contain valuable in-game resources such as dinosaur DNA. Although Jurassic goods could be found in retail spaces throughout the U.S., through harnessing experiential activations outside the traditional store, Universal was able to keep the brand fresh and relevant.
Consumers today are willing to travel for the perfect Instagram post. With thousands of brands competing for consumer market share, social media offers retailers virtually limitless potential as a form of low-cost marketing. People want to show off their exciting lives through engaging posts and stories, and in turn, brands are organically marketed to new audiences.
Japanese-owned character brand franchise Line Friends has seen major success being experiential. Recently opening a store in Hollywood, Calif., Line Friends attracted a reported 18,000 visitors on its first day of business. While the store only featured a few representations of the brand’s characters for photos, thousands of Instagrammable moments were captured.
In a similar vein, to promote her FENTY Beauty line, beauty mogul Rihanna invited consumers to try on and test the makeup line at a Madison Square Garden pop-up in New York City. Not only did Rihanna's loyal fans attend, but the interactive brand extension strategy piqued the interest of those unfamiliar with her music, where hundreds of shoppers took photos of their experience and, more importantly, purchased her product.
Traditional retail may not be dead, but boring retail is on the wane.
Retail activations are the new way of engaging with consumers. Not only is this business model a proven approach to driving sales, but it also offers brands an avenue to partner with retailers and reach a new audience they otherwise might not have connected with. There’s no downside to giving shoppers a reason to engage with the brands they love, especially in aesthetically pleasing and tailored spaces.
Amanda Cioletti is the content director of License Global magazine, the licensing industry’s thought leader.
Amanda Cioletti is the Content Director of License Global magazine, the licensing industry’s thought leader. License Global magazine, published by the Global Licensing Group at Informa Markets, is the leading news source for the brand licensing industry, delivering award-winning editorial content covering trends, analysis and special reports about the global brand licensing and marketplace.
Cioletti also serves as the Event Director for Informa Market’s Licensing Leadership Summit, the annual executive-level conference and networking event that looks at the evolution of the licensing industry, focusing on licensing strategies, emerging categories, retail and consumer trends, leadership and business innovation.