In this guest post, INVNT GROUP APAC executive creative director Adam Harriden explores how the retail space is, and will continue to, borrow from experiential, resulting in unique hybrid experiences for consumers…
Most of us are probably happily saying ‘sayonara’ to 2020 as it threw us a few curveballs, but there are a ton of learnings we can take from this year of lockdowns, ‘pivots’ (THE word of 2020), evolving briefs, and the rapid tech acceleration that has come with living and working virtually, to help us prep for 2021 and beyond.
I feel like even before 2020 we saw some fusing of retail and experiential, but the pandemic has opened up some pretty exciting new doors and opportunities for this – what I’m going to say is a symbiotic – relationship between two of the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19.
What I see emerging is a new genre of experience: one where retail borrows from experiential, resulting in unique hybrid experiences for consumers and brand fans.
Let’s delve a little deeper.
The exclusive retail route
While pre COVID there wasn’t really any limit to the number of people you could have in a store, those capacity number signs at entries remind us of the world we’re currently living in. But there’s an opportunity here: why not create in-store experiences which offer up something exclusive as the drawcard to get people down to visit? To control crowd numbers, they book or purchase a ticket beforehand (and probably get their friends involved too), and boom – a once regular visit to a shop transforms into a special occasion enjoyed with friends.
A targeted take on the customer journey
In addition to the health and safety piece, the beauty of the pre-booking function is brands can ask people key questions about things like their interests and spending habits. So when they get to the store, the experience is that little bit more personalised. The typical unscripted in-store customer journey becomes more scripted, as we can shape experiences around what they want to see and do.
The experiences have to actually be good, though
Consumers have seen it all, so brands need to take a truly strategic and creative approach when it comes to devising their in-store activations. VR experiences where people can test drive a car that’s not on the market yet, an AR fashion show where shoppers can virtually try on the latest collection after it ends, xR performances with top local talent that transport shoppers out of the physical store, and food-based experiences which deconstruct how a popular product is made (with food samples along the way) are all examples of ways retail can lean on experiential to not only get people down to a store, but create memorable, ticketed experiences which drive brand loyalty, affinity, and sales.
Bringing the experience in, and then amplifying it
These activations present amplification opportunities too. Imagine one store is hosting the xR performance live, but it’s then broadcast to all stores in the same city, region or country, and maybe it’s streamed socially too, so we have micro communities made up of, say, Nike fans, all coming together for a shared experience based on their common interests. Done right, and the retail experience could become a global phenomenon. We all miss large-scale events, and this presents an opportunity to tap into that desire.
The future is always filled with uncertainty – it’s a fact of life – but this is probably more apparent now. It’s ok to admit we’re at a stage where we don’t know the answers, the pandemic is changing every day. But there’s no point looking back. Success lies in brands and agencies working together (not agencies just presenting to them) to tap into the unknown and pull out some really great ideas that resonate with consumers. This idea of the ever-evolving retail / experiential hybrid? I think it’s here to stay.
Cheers! To 2021 and beyond…
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