Though COVID may have notched many victories in early battles against the global retail market, a recent uptick in the success and profitability of brick-and-mortar stores across the United States suggests small businesses are set to win the war.
“[F]or every retailer that closed a store in 2019,” The Guardian reports, “five more [opened] stores in 2021.”
This is very good news, obviously, but what American consumers seek as they return to the brick-and-mortar businesses they loved to visit pre-COVID – bringing a much-needed cash infusion with them – is quickly evolving.
A change in experience
Before e-commerce became the dominant method for purchasing goods, retail establishments derived success by simply stocking and selling products.
Despite the impressive retail renaissance, savvy retailers are nonetheless switching things up to compete with the staggering ease and convenience of online shopping. One major way they’re doing this is by making the retail shopping process more focused on the experience than on the transaction.
Often called experiential marketing, this approach draws on modern technology and new ways of thinking about the retail experience. The goal is to design a shopper’s path through a store to be more personalized and enjoyable than ever before.
Experiential marketing, in other words, creates value by providing a memorable moment that can’t be replicated by buying something through a browser.
A vital aspect of succeeding in the experiential model of retail shopping is how well the experience dovetails with a typical consumer journey through a brick and mortar store: The inclusion of technology and other unique offerings adds novelty and personalization to a shopping experience, making for a fun day out that is elevated above a simple purchase.
Examples of this seamless value include:
- Stores using interactive mirrors to show you how you would look in their clothes
- Providing samples or demos of in-demand products
- Hosting an event or party in store
This kind of added value is a huge draw for consumers if done right, but can fall flat if the experience doesn’t flow smoothly.
To succeed, each element must flow from one point to another. If you’re going to use QR codes to allow a shopper into a changing room or to use a pay&go app, for example, seconds of delay can lead to frustration which breaks the novelty and the quality of the moment.
An exciting future for retail
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