Retail experiences are the new products

  • Published: 20 November 2019,
  • The Say Team

And technology is the clever retailer’s best friend…

Consumer preferences are always evolving – today it’s polka dots, tomorrow it’s stripes. But the change we’re witnessing now is a big one, and so are its consequences: countless stores close as their profits shrink, while online continues to rule.

Word on the street is retail experiences are the new products. Sure, the price and quality of goods still matter. But the focus has shifted to how we shop and how it makes us feel.

Gone are the days when we’d endure a poor shopping experience to buy that one irreplaceable item. To win over customers, sellers must now offer speed, convenience and, ideally, show some character.

Forrester forecasts an influx of CX professionals for 2020, demonstrating that the demand for carefully designed customer journeys will continue to rise.

Retailers have to understand that each customer interaction can irreversibly define their perception of the brand, and determine whether they’ll come back for more.

Aside from planning a kickass business strategy, merchants also need to embrace technology. Digital tools not only make it quicker and easier to sell, but also enable companies to delve into their customers’ motivations more deeply and accurately than ever before.

With this in mind, here are a few experiential trends that are driving the need for retail technology:

Instant gratification and other Millennial demands

Fluctuations in consumer preferences are often linked with generational shifts. This couldn’t be more true for the experiential commerce phenomenon.

As Millennials grow to be the mainstream consumer, their preferences turn into market trends and their wishes become unignorable demands.

Less materialistic than their predecessors, Millennials like to spend their money on experiences rather than products. Proof of this is all around us. Airbnb invites users to book ‘experiences’ as well as ‘stays’ at the selected destination. And Secret Cinema, an immersive event set in a film’s universe, went from underground attraction to London institution with its own Wikipedia page.

So, businesses who sell physical products have to make the very process of buying those products a memorable experience.

The digital natives are also responsible for what we call the ‘instant gratification mentality’. If an online store takes more than a few seconds to load, we move on to the next thing. Because of this need for speed, brands have to take extra care when choosing their technology partners: latest-generation eCommerce solutions are simply non-negotiable.

Aside from wanting things right here and now, Millennials also like to feel special and are loyal to vendors that can create personalised retail experiences. Not just their first name in an automated email, but truly exclusive communications and unmistakeably tailored product suggestions. That’s where data analytics comes in – accompanied by a friendly reminder that GDPR is still around!

In the era of personalisation, vendors have to use technology to uncover what their customers want.

And to those who think consumers don’t really care about personalisation I say: brilliant, so what do they care about? Not quite sure? Yet another great reason to slice and dice that data and find out.

Retail tech beyond eCommerce

Does the rise of online shopping mean the high street is dead? Not really.

Once a place to touch, feel and verify that a product could in fact solve a problem or another, stores can’t continue as merely functional touchpoints. With most of the promotion and distribution now happening online, bricks-and-mortar shops need a new purpose in order to survive.

When a customer walks into a store, retailers have to seize that opportunity to make an impression in ways they simply can’t online. For example, Charlotte Tilbury’s new Beauty Wonderland in Abu Dhabi features augmented-reality-powered Magic Mirrors that instantly show you what you’d look like with her most iconic makeup looks.

Will the customer buy the eyeshadow palette there and then? Probably not. But the unusual and engaging experience will come to mind when they’re doing the real shopping, online.

The store has lost its transactional monopoly. So, retailers must learn to embrace its new role of marketing hub in order to weather the retail storm.

Riding the experiential commerce wave is essential for retailers to stay relevant. At the end of the day, successful brands will be the ones who can leverage technology – whether it be with impressive AR tricks, or webstores that simply run smoothly – to make their customers happy.

By Claudia A.

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