Experience shopping: does it drive or deflect customer interaction?

Richard Piper, our Business Development Director discusses experience shopping in today’s retail landscape.

Experience shopping: how does it differ?

Experience shopping is one way that retailers have chosen to enhance their product and improve the customer interaction in store. Though brick-and-mortar retailers have traditionally struggled to keep up with the pace of change, experience shopping offers these retailers real opportunities to redevelop their brand, reshape consumer opinions, and meet the needs of their customers.

Experience shopping tries to enhance the traditional shopping trip by expanding the interaction that customers have with a retailer. Nike, for example, offers an elaborated shopping experience where shoppers can test running shoes on treadmills, personalise their purchases with NikeID, and in its New York store, try out basketball shoes on a mini court. The encounter is personalised and detailed, and changes Nike stores from a place to buy from, to a place to experience.

Lululemon, the athletic apparel retailer with a particular focus on Yoga, is another company that expands on traditional shopping. Not only can customers buy clothing in-store, they can also take Yoga classes there. Helping to strengthen links between the customer and the business, developing loyalty, and further shaping the consumers continued experience of using their products.

How retailers are building experience shopping

Brick-and-mortar retailers like Debenhams and Selfridges, each with mixed fortunes, are turning to the experience shopping model in a bid to stay competitive and evolve with the times.

Debenhams has announced the opening of in-store gyms to both utilise redundant space and reap the benefits of a health-focused consumer market, while Selfridges has teamed up with British boxing world-heavyweight, Anthony Joshua, to bring boxing workouts to its customers. These developments see the retailers stepping outside of their usual core products to offer new, exciting twists that shoppers can attach their lifestyle to while also adding an additional revenue steam to their stores.

This begs the question; is this a sensible idea for these flagship retailers and will their risk-taking pay off? After all, installing a new gym never comes cheap. Only time will tell. There is a question of whether high-end consumers wandering the aisles of Selfridges will want to be bumping into sweaty customers straight from the gym, and whether these brands could have taken a different route. Does utilising this extra space in store actually align with the overall brand? For retailers where  experience shopping is not suitable, there are many cost-free means of building alternative revenue streams as illustrated in Beyond the Core II: How UK retailers drive profitable secondary revenue streams, such as cross-sell, affiliates, advertising or loyalty and reward programmes.

Retailers must pick a lane

This new trend in experience shopping is a creative way for retailers to address the problem of declining sales. Importantly, they’re not simply offering more products; shoppers now want more.

Few retailers have the resources of Nike and are able to implement extensive in-store experience building with the high cost they entail. But another consideration is whether experience shopping would complement their brand; after all, experience shopping is not only about improving the customer sentiment in store it’s about opening up additional revenue streams that were not otherwise available. Do retailers want to improve customer experience or introduce secondary revenue?

While experience shopping can offer a novel avenue for increased customer satisfaction, at a time when loyal customers are worth their weight in gold, retailers must not lose sight of their core offering.

Retailers should keep doing what they do well and leave the rest up to the experts.