Smart Retailers Provide Experiences, Not Things

We live in an increasingly digital world where technology is outpacing the average consumer, bringing both solutions and isolation to the forefront. Today, consumers never have to leave the comfort of their home to get everything they need… and why should they? It’s increasingly convenient – and increasingly there is more selection! – to shop for everything from clothes to groceries from your mobile phone. E-commerce, however, has placed enormous pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers as they struggle for in-store customers.


But where there is crisis, there is opportunity. And increasingly retailers are wisely adopting new strategies to prevail in this era of ever-changing consumer buying behavior as they pull every trick out of the hat with fresh takes on merchandising, surprise and delight moments, and limited-time-only experiences.


From pop-up shops to virtual reality setups, consumers of all ages and demographics are drawn to experiential activations. The approach allows the customer to engage with products and services in new ways – and wise brands see it as the opportunity to strengthen their connection to the buyer.


The Soft-Sell Approach

Consumers are savvy, and they’re only getting smarter. The average consumer is growing more averse to the hard sell. Through smart (and it must be said: authentic!) retail activations, however, the retailer is able soften its approach. Instead of the typical experience – customer enters store, finds product, purchases and exits – stores are creating moments that invite the shopper to engage with, test or even take a photo with a product or display. These types of experiences allow consumers to develop a genuine sense of connection with the brand, and if they enjoy their experience, they will likely go on to buy a product before leaving the store, and maybe even post it to Instagram. It’s a win/win.


In-store activations can also grow online sales.

Earlier this year, Sephora installed an intelligent digital mirror in its flagship store in Madrid on Calle Serrano. Powered by artificial intelligence, the mirror delivered hyper-personalized experiences and product recommendations to shoppers for a wide range of products (all branded) including makeup, skincare and fragrances. Many shoppers stopped by Sephora just to test out the innovative looking mirror and, by default, discovered new products. The mirror displays also incorporated QR codes allowing consumers to purchase the products on Sephora’s website or easily locate them in the store. Whether the consumer went on to buy the product online or in-store, Sephora’s got the sale. Sephora’s successful implementation of an experiential activation furhter underscores the importance for brands and retailers to align their online and brick-and-mortar strategies from an omnichannel perspective.


Generating Buzz

Experiential activations provide a whole new source of marketing and advertising for brands. The success of photo filtering apps and social media has created what many refer to as the “Instagram Generation.” Consumers today, especially the coveted Millennial and Generation Z shopper, are changing right alongside technology and looking to experiences more and more and are buying less than their Generation X and Boomer parents. Brands that embrace this shift are the ones that will find long-term growth. For example,Sanrio’s Hello Kitty Café nailed it for consumers by bringing its “small gift, big smile” philosophy – and, let’s be honest, immensely photogenic characters – to the masses via a traveling activation that married food, product, and experience. Customers that visit any of the traveling food trucks or stand-alone cafes are likely to post about their visit on social media, which in turn provides free marketing. Shopping malls are beginning to leverage this strategy to drive foot-traffic by incorporating live music, play structures, art installations and even silent discos, all of which provide “Instagrammable moments” for consumers to share.


When it comes to incorporating experiential activations into business strategies, licensing plays a crucial role. As retail considates and shoppers look elsewhere, products need to stand out, and what better way than with a tried and true (and trusted) brand? Couple that with an exciting in-store moment and bingo! You’ve got a winning combination and likely a register full of sales.License Global, the leading news source for the brand licensing industry, recently published a list of the top 5 retail activations of 2018, which reinforces the many ways that the smart leveraging of brand licensing can benefit and drive product sales.


Online shopping is not the demise of brick-and-mortar retailers – far from it. Instead, it’s an opportunity to evolve with the times and even get a leg up on the competition.


Contributed by Amanda Cioletti, the Content Director of License Global magazine, the licensing industry’s thought leader. License Global magazine, published by the Global Licensing Group at Informa Markets, is the leading news source for the brand licensing industry, delivering award-winning editorial content covering trends, analysis and special reports about the global brand licensing and retail marketplace. Cioletti also serves as the Event Director for Informa Market’s Licensing Leadership Summit, the annual executive-level conference and networking event that looks at the evolution of the licensing industry, focusing on licensing strategies, emerging categories, retail and consumer trends, leadership and business innovation.

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