Online retail sales continue to grow as changing shopper behavior places greater expectations on brick-and-mortar retail. Despite this trend, store-based retailing remains more profitable than direct-to-consumer retailing, largely due to the high cost of free shipping and returns associated with online sales.
The silver lining for retailers is that many consumers still prefer in-store shopping. In fact, Accenture recently found that 82% of tech-savvy millennials enjoy shopping in physical – not digital – stores. So, bringing shoppers back may be easier – and more fun – than expected.
The Shopping Trip as an Experience
The goal of “shoppertainment,” or experiential retailing, is to draw shoppers into the physical space by offering interactive and engaging activities. Mall operators are seasoned at implementing shoppertainment methods to differentiate their space from other retail offerings – examples include temporary events such as Santa Claus during the holidays and permanent fixtures like carousels.
Today, individual retailers of all sizes are looking for new ways to connect with customers and retain brick-and-mortar sales. What is a great way to do this? Think of the shopping journey as an experience, and make it both unique and memorable.
For example, a hardware store can conduct educational classes. A sporting goods store can hold soccer clinics for budding athletes. There is also the “try before you buy” concept popularized by Apple. The luxury home goods retailer Pitch has taken this to a whole new level by dedicating its flagship SoHo store to experiential shopping where visitors can flush actual toilets, turn on appliances and even test shower heads.
A shoppertainment strategy varies across verticals and ultimately should be developed based on careful planning. Fortunately, shoppertainment does not need to be expensive or challenging, and the following tips can help retailers outline and execute a strategy that works for them.
Seven Steps to Shoppertainment Success
The first consideration for any retailer is determining if it makes sense. Can the business make the financial investment needed? Will efforts resonate with core shoppers? Do experiential tactics have transferability across stores or do they require a more customized approach?
If the retailer believes shoppertainment is a viable strategy, they should consider these steps:
- Identify the target audience: An event for a group of millennial girls will be very different from one for baby boomer grandfathers, so determining the audience is critical. Understanding the local demographics is important, too, and incorporating unique aspects of the community into an event or display better connects to shoppers.
- Make it relevant: It is important to be creative but also connect the experience back to the store. Whenever possible, customers should be directly engaged with products, which will make them more likely to purchase and also encourage return visits to the store. Additionally, sales and promotional offers should tie the event and the products together in a sensible way (e.g., 15% off workout gear following an in-store yoga class).
- Set a Budget: Shoppertainment offerings can fall anywhere on a broad financial spectrum – from a small sum to set up a workshop to a larger budget to remodel a section of a store.Financial executives need to work with the various departments – merchandising, promotions, etc. – to determine costs and ensure allocation.
- Determine Frequency: Some shoppertainment activities make more sense as yearly or even one-time occurrences. But others, such as classes and workshops, can be scheduled on a weekly or monthly basis. Retailers should carefully examine the retail calendar, determine relevant dates for activities, and consider promotional periods over the course of the year in order to either tie into or avoid events.
- Understand the impact on employees: Employees are the key to a successful shoppertainment strategy. Retail leaders should conduct outreach with district and store managers to communicate value, generate excitement and create internal buy-in.Further, activity-specific training is imperative and additional compensation may be considered if associates are going above and beyond.
- Measure Results: The only way to know if the strategy is working is to continuously measure store traffic against sales and conversion rates before, during and after the event. Store managers should carefully track in-store performance to determine if adjustments need to be made (i.e., extending or limiting offerings) and relay to corporate.
- Integrate Technology: A Retail Systems Research study found that 58% of retailers feel they can enhance the in-store experience with digital touch points, and should blend the digital and physical in-store. Here are two technologies that can enhance shoppertainment:
• Kiosks: A versatile option that can be anything from a simple coupon generator to a more complex interactive version such as the Hershey Smile Sample, which uses embedded facial recognition software to identify when a shopper smiles and then dispenses candy.
• Virtual Mirrors: Customers can try on a shirt, pants, dress or blouse and then look at it in different colors and styles without having to physically change the actual clothing. It also enables shoppers to compare outfits side by side and share the images through a smartphone or on social media.
As retailers search for ways to make the in-store experience more innovative and compelling, a shoppertainment strategy is essential. Done right, it will capture shoppers’ attention, reinforce brand loyalty, and drive traffic to the physical store – ultimately providing retailers with greater sale and conversion opportunities.
This article was originally published in Chain Store Age on Aug. 26, 2016.