The Increasing Relevance of Experiential Retail

Thanks to the large shift towards online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores have been pushed to adapt to survive. Amidst these adjustments, many brands have positioned themselves in the category of experiential retail.  Experiential retail, a common phrase in the industry these days, refers to the movement away from transaction-forward methods and towards a holistic, immersive customer experience.  In doing so, stores become a destination; an argument for shoppers to leave their house in a time where online shopping has limited the reasons that one would need to abandon the comfort of their home.

Offering supplementary features such as wine bar installations, community classes, coffee shops and other creative experiences,  many stores have found success in the space of experiential retail.  Its newest member, Neiman Marcus, has taken the concept to new heights.

The Luxury Shopper

The luxury retail brand recently opened an extravagant, three-story flagship in New York’s newest $25 billion real estate development built for the affluent, Hudson Yards.  The brand calls the new location a “playground for everyone”. [1] Their site details of a long list of events that are offered in the massive space including pain-relieving body and face treatments, made-to-order Coach bags and designer dinner parties.  Previously an online option only, Neiman Marcus now offers a place in the store where customers can interact with digital stylists who provide fashion expertise while archiving shopper history and preferences for future purchases.

In a recent interview, Neiman Marcus CEO, Geoffroy Van Raemdonck, discussed the aspirations of the new store, explaining that their initiative is to engage the shopper and provide value in the experience.  On the store’s design, he stated that “we’ve made the store very fluid, and it invites you to go from one place to another and up”.  [2] The space has endless opportunities for interaction, from live podcast shows where the shopper can listen and learn, to a full-service spa where customers can relax after a long day of perusing the store, to abundant options for dining in the space’s three restaurants.

Knowing your Audience 

Experiential retail has become a run-of-the-mill practice for many stores, predominately  in metropolitan areas.  Key to remember, not every shopper is looking to get a chemical face peel while they browse through the designer sunglasses department.  Knowing your audience will allow you to invest in locations with the potential for high returns, while avoiding areas where the efforts are irrelevant.  Deploying programs such as customer surveys or mystery shopping allows you to confirm whether or not your audience would appreciate the concept of experimental retail.

New York City houses a diverse population with customer preferences varying by every square-inch.  The diversity allows for experiential retailers to successfully speak to a specific, luxury shopper audience, while drawing in the unconvential customer through the opportunity for a unique experience.  While some may find the cost of Neiman Marcus’ products to be a deterrent, the new attractions allow for these shoppers to join in on the commotion and find an identity in the brand, apart from the product.

Evolving to Survive

Today, in-store shopping is only partly about the product.  Online shopping poses ambitious threats to the survival of brick-and-mortars, but the solution is less about competing, and more about differentiating.  Instead of attempting to combat the perks of e-commerce, retailers have taken to the blue-ocean strategy.  They have stepped into a space where there are no true guidelines, rendering endless possibilities.  Those who fail to evolve will lose to the convenience of e-commerce.

[1] [2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2019-03-15/neiman-marcus-comes-to-hudson-yards-to-offer-customers-real-experience-video


Second To None empowers customer-centric brands to deliver consistent, intentional and authentic consumer experiences.

We adeptly design and manage mystery shopping, compliance, engagement and voice of customer solutions grounded in strategic relevance, program integrity and actionable insights. Our solutions are developed on the basis of solid research and statistical science. We achieve success through a relentless focus on quality and innovation, consultative relationships and a talented team of professional associates.

 

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