Technology has shifted our day-to-day activities—like shopping—into the online world, but there are just some things that can only be found at a physical store: the service knowledge of the employees, the use of your hands to feel the materials of the products, or the ability to try on a new outfit right away. The world of experiential retail was born to provide consumers with an authentic, unforgettable shopping experience, starting right when they walk through the doors. We saw the transition to a digital in-store experience begin a few years ago at Victoria’s Secret, where we installed a large video wall for live feeds of their latest fashion show, ensuring every visit to the store is unique.
Creating an experiential environment helps bring customers into the store, keeps them engaged with interaction and displays, educates and soft sells them on the product, and exhibits the culture of the brand through the aesthetically appealing decor and service. Introducing more interactivity and providing cutting-edge services in physical stores can augment the value of the merchandise sold because customers get more than just the product—they are provided with a unique experience on top of it. Instead of focusing solely on the products, retailers need to reorient their selling approach and add unique and memorable services that help them stand out from the competition.
Here at Shawmut Design and Construction, we have worked with hundreds of clients who were seeking that connectivity with their shoppers in ways that helped them stand out:
FordHub Brand Experience Studio (World Trade Center, NY)—This unique space allows visitors to interact with the company in ways they were not expecting and to think about the future of transportation, regardless of whether they intend to purchase a Ford or not. The studio has an interactive map showing the newest advancements in transportation technology, a mobility map showing real-time traffic information, and a fun game called the Last Mile Challenge that takes guests through futuristic worlds.
Cadillac House (SoHo, NY)—The client’s goal was to appeal to a younger generation by delivering a completely unique experience, including an art gallery, exhibits, a retail lab, and a high-end New York-based coffee shop.
Shinola (LA Arts District, CA)—This store fits right in the neighborhood by housing a healthy eatery, Di Alba, and a tattoo parlor, Saved Tattoo. In addition, the space has a 24-foot art wall that will feature a new artist every month.
Coach House (Fifth Avenue, NY)—The brand connected with its roots by incorporating two new concepts: the Made to Order Rogue, which allows customers to create their own Rogue bag and choose from over a million combinations, and the Coach House Workshop, where shoppers can customize their newly purchased leather goods or make repairs to their existing bags.
Ralph Lauren (Fifth Avenue, NY)—The retailer aimed to increase and maintain traffic to the store by debuting the first Ralph’s Coffee Shop and full-service restaurant—The Polo Bar.
Forward-thinking retailers must seize this opportunity to appeal to customers through a sensory experience and provide shoppers with a respite from their to-do lists—it’s what experiential retail is all about. It’s time for retailers to break from the mold and for shoppers to break their routine.