As the Avengers have once again assembled to restore order to the universe in Avengers: Endgame, we are assembling to shine light on the subject of experiential retail – or ‘retailtainment’ – which has been the centre of all the hype in retail design experiences lately.
Many international companies and brands like Marvel Entertainment, Estée Lauder and Samsung have been implementing the methods of experiential retail in their business operation for a variety of reasons that will be discussed in this article.
But this approach to retail isn’t new on the block. In fact, experiential retail has been lurking around the neighbourhood for a good amount of time and has significantly been picking up in popularity to cater to the changing needs of customers.
So, what is experiential retail?
Experiential stores are designed with the aim of providing an out-of-the-box experience to customers. The primary goal is not necessarily to sell products, but rather to improve brand image and to minimise the distance between the company and their customers. The purpose of this concept is thus recreational rather than commercial.
Experiential retail has developed out of the need to adapt to the changing market due to the rapid growth of the online market. While a considerate percentage of shopping nowadays takes place online – especially among millennials and Gen Z – it remains favourable for brands to keep one foot on the ground. Even if the buying-selling aspect of a business operates online, it poses a challenge to maintain good client relations when the only interaction between the company and the customer is through a smartphone or computer screen.
This is where experiential retail methods come in.
Think of retailtainment as a unique space where both existing and prospective customers can familiarise themselves with the particular brand or business without the pressure of committing or immediately digging out their wallets to pay for a product or service. Experiential retail creates a safe space for new customers to be charmed by what the store offers, and for customers already familiar with the brand to promote their idea of it and solidify their commitment to it.
5 examples of retailers who have implemented the retailtainment concept in their stores.
1. Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.
Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is an experience store based on the global box-office film franchise, Marvel’s The Avengers. In cooperation with greater group, the pop up shop was officially launched in New York in June 2014. The store is located in the bustling Times Square, placing it right in the middle of all the action. This concept store is a first for Marvel Entertainment and was created in collaboration with Brand Licensing Worldwide and Victory Hill Entertainment Group.
The store is part of a 10, 000 square foot replica exhibit of the Avengers S.H.I.E.L.D. set, using a combination of real life movie props and cutting-edge interactive technology. From initial design to final installation, it took about six weeks to finish this store.
This is a prime example of successful implementation of experiential retail. In an experience like no other, customers, or ‘civilians’, who visited the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. are immersed in a fictional world. After completing the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Training, civilians enter the experience store where a range of limited edition uniforms and other merchandise items are on sale to prepare them for returning to the ‘real world’.
This entertainment concept store has proven incredibly successful and plans are underway to establish a more permanent location for it in Las Vegas.
WHY DOES RETAILTAINMENT WORK SO WELL FOR THE AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N.?
In a concept store based on a franchise like in this case, the aim of the store itself is not selling a product or even profiting from a service, but rather to promote the public’s perception of the brand.
A billion dollar company like Marvel Entertainment has a social obligation towards its fanbase to maintain good company-client relations. Visitors to the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. concept store enter a dream-world where their favourite movie scenes come to life, which is why this instalment has been welcomed with so much success.
2. STORY at Macy’s
STORY at Macy’s is a narrative-driven retail experience by the American department store, Macy’s, in partnership with brands like MAC Cosmetics, Crayola, Levi’s Kids and more than 70 other small businesses.
Story initially started as a unique retail store who operated on the idea of renewing its stock according to different themes every few months. Themes like ‘Love’, ‘Remember When’ and ‘Holidays’ acted as guidelines for every new wave of products. After seven years in business, Story was acquired by Macy’s in 2018 and relaunched as STORY at Macy’s.
This experiential retail based concept now blows new life into the 36 Macy’s stores nationwide. Story founder Rachel Shechtman designed the store as medium of creative discovery. Now integrated with Macy’s, customers are given a new reason to engage with the brand and to come back on regular occasions to explore the latest exciting additions to the store.
According to Shechtman, who now serves as Macy’s brand experience officer, the goal of STORY at Macy’s is to create a real life version of scrolling through Instagram where customers will always be amazed at what they find.
STORY at Macy’s launched with the theme, ‘Color’, threading its way through the wide range of curated products and theme-related community events, brightly bringing their material Instagram-feed to life.
Some of the biggest brands collaborating with Color STORY are MAC Cosmetics , Crayola, Levi’s Kids, each bringing their own unique touches to the experience.
MAC Cosmetics features a DIY-station where customers can custom-build their own palettes. Beauty classes are also offered in-store where guests can learn makeup skills and tricks from expert artists.
Crayola offers creative workshops where customers can use Crayola products to create custom crafts, also collaborating with other on-site brands like Levi’s Kids. A popular activity has proven to be creating custom patches to decorate Levi’s Kids denim jackets and t-shirts. The last mentioned brand is displaying a selection of items from the exclusive Levi’s x Crayola collaboration with a back-to-school theme.
With the wide variety of brands partnering with STORY at Macy’s, the concept as a whole can gratify a broad spectrum of customers. The fun, quirky approach taken to launch Color STORY especially appeals to the younger generation, who will, at no doubt, find an Instagram story-opportunity in this colourful setup.
When catering to the social media driven generation, it is imperative for brands to make their product, service or experience as a whole as attractive as possible. The value of social media as a marketing tool is beyond measure. The best part? When an experiential retail concept store or pop up is endorsed by the social media savvy generation, the digital marketing will be doing itself.
3. Estée Lauder’s Power of Night Pop-Up
Estée Lauder recently hosted their first Power of Night pop-up event at the Visual Arts Centre in Singapore. The focus of the event was on the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum, a beauty favourite in Singapore to rejuvenate skin and boost complexion hydration levels. The brand took an interactive approach to educate guests on the subject of how modern life affects our skin and what the relation is between sleep and skincare while providing entertainment through a series of recreational activities aligned with the theme.
Activities included an interactive quiz where guests could discover their skin’s specific needs, after which they received corresponding serum samples. Guests could also visit the various beauty stations, learn beauty hacks and try some of Estée Lauder’s most popular makeup products.
Like with STORY at Macy’s, it can be seen how the brand is aware of the power of marketing that lies in social media. An Instagram-competition was launched where a massive gift pack was up for grabs, including a full-sized bottle of the serum marketed at the event. The competition required guests to take pictures throughout the event and post in on Instagram with the hashtag #PowerofNightSG to stand a chance to win. This is a brilliant marketing strategy where the brand receives excellent online coverage and generates public acclaim by interacting with and giving back to their client base.
The organisers ran the ‘Power of Night’ theme through every aspect of the event, from hosts in satin loungewear greeting guests at the door to fitting out the space to represent the very photogenic interior of a living room and bedroom.
This pop-up event was a one-time occurrence, but it was met with so much enthusiasm that the brand would benefit from more installations like these. Clientele of Estée Lauder who attended Power of Night were gifted with a unique experience they won’t easily forget. Walking away with gift bags, fabulous Instagram-photos (a big asset in 2019) and valuable new skincare knowledge and beauty tips – an altogether well-spent two days that they’ll have the brand to thank for.
Not only is an event like this great for publicity, but it’s also an authentic way to strengthen company-consumer relations to solidify customers’ loyalty to the brand in the future.
4. Galaxy Harajuku
Samsung, a client of greater group, recently launched Galaxy Harajuku, the largest Galaxy showcase store to date, located in the popular Harajuku shopping neighbourhood in Tokyo. The store was opened exactly 500 days before the launch of Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics, highlighting Galaxy’s involvement as a global partner of this event (Samsung functions under the name ‘Galaxy’ in the Japanese market).
This flagship store is housed in a modern – futuristic, even – six-floor building featuring an eye-catching entrance design by the Japanese designer and artist, Tokujin Yoshioka. The retail design was done by Shigeru Kubota and mirrors the cutting-edge technology associated with Galaxy’s products.
The store presents an entertaining, interactive space powered by the methods of experiential retail. The generous implementation of technology ensures visitors never experience a dull moment. On the first floor, customers are welcomed by a massive LED screen where Galaxy displays its latest smart products. A cafe with wooden features and a clean cut design is installed on the next floor, creating a relaxed space for shoppers to kick back and enjoy a cup of coffee. The third floor features an interactive exhibition of Galaxy’s history and outlining the brand’s current relation to other global partners. The store’s remaining floors are occupied by more interactive installations, video games and product exhibitions.
The concept of retailtainment is geared towards entertainment and recreation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean cutting-edge technology. Many brands make the mistake of using fancy digital technology into their concept stores as means of distracting the customer from unfavourable background elements, for example a cramped space or bad lighting. Technology can be put to very good use as long as it is implemented correctly.
In this case, however, modern digital technology is the essence of the company so the incorporation of world-class technology into the operation of the store is non-negotiable.
5. Hermès Carré Club
The French luxury fashion manufacturer, Hermès, launched the Carré Club much to the entertainment of glamourous Hollywood. The studio space located in Chelsea housed eight of Hermès’s talented crafters where their skills were put on display, allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes peak of the brand’s manufacturing magic.
The New York club was only open for a limited period of time, but this pop-up concept is making its way across major cities like Toronto, Singapore, Los Angeles and Milan. The entire experience of the Carré Club screams exclusivity, treating every guest like a VIP-client. The limited instalments only add to the charm of temporary luxury.
The club offers entertainment like a gif photobooth, a collection of retro telephones and a karaoke station. Hermès has expertly adapted two centuries of French heritage to fit right in to the modern setting of Hollywood.
Hermès-apparel is internationally available on their online store and products can be shipped to almost anywhere in the world. Why is there still a need for a physical space when it is possible for this brand to function online completely?
Online retail has been booming over the last couple of years and statistics show this method of shopping is only becoming more and more popular. According to figures published by Invesp, global online retail sales reached a total of 8.8% of total retail spending in 2018, compared to 7,4% in 2016 and 5,9% in 2014. Regular online shoppers mostly fall into the age group between 18-39 – in other words Millennials and Gen Z. Yet 98% of Gen Zers say they still like to shop in brick-and-mortar stores – in other words the conventional way of actually visiting the store itself.
It appears to be quite an interesting time for the retail market, which poses the challenge for brands to find their feet somewhere in the middle of online retail and traditional storefront retail.
In the case of the Hermès Carré Club, the main objective of this experiential space is not to sell products, but to provide a unique retail experience that will make customers feel more connected to the brand. By creating this exclusive space, Hermès minimises the distance between the brand and the customer, allowing for healthy customer relations to be built which is likely to increase sales turnover on the long run.
- Experiential retail aims to provide an out-of-the-box experience to customers.
- One of the reasons experiential retail developed is to adapt to the changing needs of customers as a result of the spurt in online retail.
- The goals of experiential retail isn’t necessarily to sell products or to profit from a service, but rather to promote the public’s perception of the brand.
- When an experiential retail concept store or pop up is ‘Instagram-cool’, the digital marketing will be doing itself.
- Creating one-of-a-kind experiences will strengthen company-consumer relations and solidify customers’ loyalty to the brand in the future.
- When applicable to the specific brand, digital technology can be very effective in providing entertainment to customers as long as it is implemented correctly.
- Experiential retail methods can facilitate the ideal middle ground between online and traditional storefront retail.