The time-honoured tradition of battling it out for a parking spot, brushing past rows of neatly lined linens, grabbing a quick coffee, and heading home with shopping bags bursting at the seams is under threat like never before. With Covid-19 fast-tracking the shift to online, how does in-store retail respond?
MacGregor Black takes a closer look at what’s in-store for the future of retail, including one of the most popular strategies that brands are rolling out right now, experiential marketing.
Today’s Retail Landscape?
If you’re find shopping feeling a little different these days, you’ll be glad to know you aren’t alone. Shops certainly still exist, the gladiatorial parking spot battles still commence, and coffee still powers the weary toward that one final purchase. However, in the last decade we’ve witnessed the bustling world of in-store retail evolve drastically, with many consumers now opting to get their hands on the latest products, without even stepping near a store.
Where once, to see, try on a product, and own it that day was a market owned entirely by in-store, these days technology has joined the party and is showing no signs of going home.
From ordering online, to scrolling through Instagram, the internet has opened up a plethora of alternative options for consumers to shop and it’s easy to see why many of us are choosing convenience over physical experience. As our lives get busier and our time more precious, shops naturally become less appealing. Add to this the recent pandemic and the enticing lure of the internet, with its 24-7 convenience becomes harder than ever to resist. Despite this, retail is certainly still alive & kicking, and with the threat of online competition, the natural response is… innovation.
A whole host of new and creative experiences are being rolled out for shoppers all around the globe with big name brands like Nike, Ralph Lauren and Red Bull offering their customers an in-store experience that goes far beyond the traditional shopping trip.
What Exactly is Experiential Marketing?
If you’re a film lover, or a regular book worm like myself, then there’s no doubt you’re familiar with the intoxicating feeling of being transported to new and exotic worlds, to experience something completely new. Something exciting and most importantly, unique.
This is the type of memorable, immersive experience that experiential marketeers hope to create for their audience. An experience that stands-out from the crowd and leaves us wanting more. After all, people want memories, stories, and adventures to share, not just products, and experiential marketing is a perfect way to achieve this.
Also known as ‘engagement marketing’, ‘live marketing’ or ‘participation marketing’, experiential marketing is a strategy that invites an audience to interact with a brand through a real-world, face-to-face event. In short, experiential marketing enables customers to not simply buy from a brand, but to deeply engage with and experience the brand on a personal level. According to Forbes, experiential marketing can bolster a long-lasting and unforgettable relationship between brands and customers, as well as providing brands with a unique range of opportunities to further grow and develop.
While most experiential campaigns focus on live events such as festivals, retreats, trade shows and conferences; there are no written rules. Many examples take the form of one-off installations or activations, such as product taste testing, giveaways, pop-up experiences, kiosks, and a range of other unique experiences that drive meaningful interactions with customers.
However, not simply limited to in-store, experiential marketing often crosses the borders between the physical and digital world, with many brands incorporating an online presence into their experiential strategy, such as a branded hashtags, micro-sites, and social media campaigns, to raise awareness and encourage eWoM.
Why Use Experiential Marketing?
In recent years, one of the common demands that has steadily emerged across the consumer and retail industries is, trust. The more honest, dependable, and trustworthy a brand appears, the more likely it is that consumers will shop there in the future and even recommend the brand to their friends and family. With this in mind, a sure-fire way that retailers can build confidence in their brand and ensure this season’s boots stay on the ground, is with a well-executed and engaging experiential campaign. Providing customers with the opportunity to physically meet with brand reps, try new products in person, and experience unique events, creates a feeling of connection that simply cannot be achieved exclusively through online campaigns.
Not only is experiential marketing a great way to reinforce a brand’s message and build loyalty with existing customers, but it can also be a fantastic platform for new customer acquisition. Personal interactions can go a long way when it comes to gaining a consumer’s initial buy in, as it opens up the opportunity to really understand a brand, the product, and the people behind it. In fact, according to EventTrack, a hefty 91% of consumers reported that they would be more inclined to purchase a brand’s product or service after participating in a brand activation or experience, and 40% felt they would actually become more loyal to the brand.
Similar to the intricate world of digital marketing, one of the most important benefits to experiential marketing is the ability to generate leads and gather data on potential new customers. From contact details, to demographics, brands are able to obtain and use this data to fine-tune their strategy and engage with similar people who may also be interested in their brand in the future. And when coupled with an audience that has opted into the experience on offer, the quality, quantity and also reliability of the data collected is likely to be significantly greater.
Our Top 5 Campaigns
According to HubSpot, experiential marketing now ranks as one of the top five marketing strategies that companies currently leverage, with brands all over the globe beginning to see the benefits of engaging with their customers on a personal level.
But enough talking, here are our top 5 most interesting experiential campaigns launched to date:
SNCF – ‘Europe is Just Next Door’
In 2012, French rail network, SNCF teamed up with ad agency, TBWA, to put their company on the map, with the launch of their ‘Europe is Just Next Door’ campaign. The railway company created a virtual traveling experience for city goers all over Europe, by placing brightly coloured doors in major EU cities, waiting patiently to be opened by curious passers-by. Behind each door was a real-time event that offered pedestrians the chance to be transported to beautiful cities around the world with just the twist of a handle. It could be a street performer on the bustling banks of the Seine River, an enthusiastic mime surrounded by mesmerised crowds on the streets of Milan, or even a sketch artist eagerly waiting to paint your portrait from a park bench in Brussels. The campaign created a connection not only between the consumer and the location, but also with SNCF, placing it as a company that could turn your dream European trip, into a reality.
Pepsi’s ‘Pepsi Touch’ Social Vending Machine
Using interactive digital technology, PepsiCo launched a state-of-the-art Social Vending Machine, which transformed the simple metal box, into a vessel for kindness. The impressive system allowed users to gift their friends a pre-paid bottle of Pepsi, from a far-away location. For the user, they simply add in the receipts name, mobile number and a personalised video message, and the receiver of the beverage is sent a system code and instructions to retrieve the drink, free of charge, from a selected machine. The campaign also allowed people to commit random acts of refreshment by purchasing a drink for a stranger or sending “a symbol of encouragement to a city that’s experienced some challenging weather or a congratulatory beverage to a university that just won a championship,” PepsiCo said.
This is a great example of how experiential marketing opens the doors for brands to gather as much useful data from potential customers as possible.
‘Scoops Ahoy’ – Netflix & Baskin Robbins
In the hit Netflix show, Stranger Things, 80’s teen, Steve Harrington worked at the fictional ice cream parlour, Scoops Ahoy. In 2019, the well-known streaming platform, Netflix and leading American ice cream specialists, Baskin Robbins teamed up in an epic attempt to bring the on-screen ice cream shop to life. The campaign consisted of a range of different elements that launched steadily across America, including a shop, which remained open for two weeks, a 15 second commercial advertising the famous USS Butterscotch ice cream as seen on the show, an ice cream yacht, and a social media campaign to spread the word. The creative campaign also featured a Scoops Ahoy themed van travelling around the UK, giving out free retro flavoured ice-cream to excited Stranger Things fans in busy cities including, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Exeter, and Dublin.
The Fortnite Rift Tour
Fornite, one of the biggest gaming franchises in the world and Ariana Grande, Guinness World Record holder for the most songs to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, teamed up to create an out-of-this-world musical experience. The Fortnite Rift Tour, held in the metaverse, was an event that pushed the boundaries of experiential marketing to the max, bringing virtual, hybrid and in-person events all in one place. The partnership saw experiential marketing professionals working with the metaverse to create a new range of immersive, high-tech events. As part of the campaign, Ariana Grande gave her first live performance in two years, exclusively for her fans in the metaverse. The detailed digital setting also allowed the audience to explore the colourful world of Fortnite, with interactive mini-games and challenges available throughout the event.
Proud and Present by lululemon
A key theme in many successful experiential campaigns is to eliminate the need to generate direct revenue from it. Instead opting to create a brand experience that your customers will never forget. In 2019, American apparel retailer, lululemon, launched the ‘Proud and Present’ campaign encouraging reflection within the LGBTQ21A+ community. The activation saw the execution of a full social campaign, two in-person experiences, and multiple in-store campaigns. The brand worked with their employees to create intimate, personal photos and videos which discussed topics impacting their community, which were shared on social media and brought to life in an outdoor installation in Hudson River Park in New York City. For two weeks, the brand also hosted LGBTQ21A+ inspired yoga sessions in the park to raise funds to support The Trevor Projects work with the community.
In conclusion, as customers become increasingly aware of when, where, and how they shop, and the battle for convenience rages on, the in-store experience, now more than ever must stand out from the crowd. And with almost 60% of consumers now expecting retailers to dedicate more floor space to experiences, rather than just products, the future of retail has a clear expectation. Even a whopping 81% of consumer said they were more likely to open their wallets and pay more for products that offered an upgraded their overall shopping experience.
With that in mind, keep your eyes peeled for the latest in activations and events at your local stores!
If you’d like to speak to our team of Retail Marketing recruitment specialists, get in touch today via 0191 691 1949 or via firstname.lastname@example.org