Retailers Go Experiential to Stay Relevant

Lately, the mantra for retail seems to be "evolve or die." In the wake of Macy's announcement that it will be closing 100 of its 700 stores next year to divert resources to online, retailers seems to be scrambling to find ways to stay relevant.
Customer Engagement

The most obvious way forward is through experiential shopping. According to this recent Washington Post article, shoppers are bypassing spending in malls and stores for vacations and dinners out at restaurants. And the majority said their holiday spending would be on experience-related purchases.

With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, that doesn't bode well for many traditional retailers. Today, Judith Aquino offers advice like deploying beacon technology or using advanced personalization for retailers to compete and win this holiday season in "5 Strategies to Shake Up Your Holiday Retail Playbook."

Some innovative retailers already know that offering unique experiences work best at grabbing shoppers' attention.

Lululemon, for instance, offers a concierge service at its flagship store in New York's Flatiron District to help shoppers book a spot in an exercise class or find a running route in the city. The yoga apparel store will dedicate roughly one-third of the 11,500-square-foot shop to a new concept called Hub Seventeen, a community gathering place where shoppers can take yoga workshops, view art or films, and attend concerts. The store will also boast a concierge service to help shoppers book nearby gym classes or other city events.

The Birchbox is also utilizing its stores for events by renting out the space for birthday parties, bachelorettes, and class-oriented parties. And to encourage more in-store shopping, the company introduced a "Build Your Own Box" service, which allows shoppers to choose all of the products he or she wants in his or her box. For only $10, shoppers get to add five samples to their boxes, a feature only offered in the physical store to encourage its online customers to stop in the store.

Saks Fifth Avenue is also reinventing how it uses its physical space. The retailer is creating a beauty area in its Manhattan flagship location, with a new layout that encourages more browsing and that makes room for expanded beauty offerings such as brow bars.

And Rebecca Minkoff's digital RFID-tagged dressing room caters to in-store shoppers by providing a truly unique experience. The brand displays suggested items on its "magic mirrors" as shoppers try on clothing. If the customer is unsure about a particular item, she can save her fitting room session to an app and purchase the item at a later time at the store or online. Customers who share their phone numbers can order a drink and browse the store till they receive a text message that lets them know when a fitting room is available. By using sensors and cameras, the company also tracks customers inside their stores and used the data to improve their store layouts, inventory, pricing, and window displays.

Providing an experiential customer experience is table stakes today, and the holiday shopping season is the most optimal time for retailers to put their new experiential plans and strategies in action. What's your action plan?