So much has changed in the way we engage with products, people, businesses, colleagues, family - you name it – through Covid. But with global vaccination roll outs at high speed, and with restrictions easing across most of the world; it feels like a welcome shift is coming.
People have a desire for connection. We are social creatures, and engaging with other humans is an essential part of experiencing joy. So as the virus appears to slow, the experience sector can once again awaken. And in a way that will make the break feel like it never happened!
Experience culture has traditionally covered events, hospitality, visitor attractions, and more.
Whether it be immersive experiences that take you to prison, or that bring art to life – see our Lab here all about it – it has been a sector dosed in popular culture.
Agile as ever, with the emergence of Covid-19, the sector again knew it needed to adapt to popular culture, to social norms, social restrictions, and more importantly; adapt to inspire and entrance audiences that for the first time in our history had been trapped at home.
With shops re-opening and malls again welcoming anyone and everyone, one of the more exciting terms re-emerging from the experience space is ‘retailtainment’ (otherwise known as experience marketing). The term covers retail marketing as entertainment, and that translates in retail to stores going WAY beyond the traditional set up. Experience, CHECK. Engagement, CHECK. Unforgettable, CHECK CHECK.
“In a time when e-commerce is growing so fast, retailtainment is here to bring brick & mortar back to life and start creating the kind of customer engagement that would drive people back to the stores and put a smile on their faces.” (Tokinomo)
Retailtainment aims to take in-store engagement to incredible heights. Whether that be interactive technologies, well curated stores that tell a story, selfie walls, audio and musical journeys, you name it. These stores are a world of sensory stories, a world of sensory entertainment, and all the while triggering your purchasing impulses with sparkly merchandise and stock at your fingertips. The trick? Trigger emotions and manipulate your customers into a mood to buy.
“That’s because real in-store POS experiences, compared to a promotion or a discount let’s say, stay in people’s memory for longer. In a study published by the International Journal of Supply Chain Management, 100% of the respondents say that retailtainment, experiential POS marketing or intimate brand experiences make them curious about a particular product or service that’s being advertised.” (Tokinomo)
The best example of retailtainment currently is the new Harry Potter New York store.
Covering 3 floors, over 21,000 square feet, and including 15 different themed areas, this mega-store is a Harry Potter fan’s idea of Heaven!
Complete with a London phone box for selfies – Hello, so you can be transported to the Ministry of Magic – it even includes an interactive wand table so guests can test which wand is for them, it includes VR experiences to take you inside the movies, it includes Wizarding World delicacies – Yes, chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans - and it includes the world’s largest Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts collection.
It even houses a model of Fawkes the Phoenix as it’s centre piece. Created by specialist prop makers, ‘the model weighs more than 220lbs and gazes down to guests from the ceiling.’ (experienceUK) If you are a fan of the Harry Potter franchise, this is your wonderland; and all with the simple purpose behind it. Enthral guests and inspire them to make a purchase when in store.
Other stand outs in this scene according to TheStoreFront.com include:
The House of Vans
The House of Vans in London lives up to the company motto of being “off the wall”. A location where art, music, BMX, street culture and fashion converge, you can find almost everything you can imagine across the 30,000 square feet building. Amongst a cinema, café, live music venue and art gallery, the bottom floor holds the most unique feature of the building: the concrete ramp, mini ramp and street course.
Nothing better epitomizes the Vans brand than a space where young people can not only shop but spontaneously socialize.
The House of Vans is the perfect example of how experiential retail can be used to empower a shopping experience. (thestorefront)
Huda Beauty, one of the world’s fastest-growing beauty brands, ran an immersive retail experience pop-up right in the centre of Covent Garden. Huda used the location to deliver a sci-fi themed experience in support of their new eye-shadow palette Mercury Retrograde.
The entire exterior of the pop-up resembled a multi-faceted, metallic mass of geometrical shapes. This was echoed inside with various ‘galactic’ elements, all manner of mirrored surfaces and shimmering fixtures and elements. As part of the event, visitors could sit on the throne Huda used in her launch material, all set up to encourage as much social media activity and engagement as possible. (thestorefront)
Marvel: Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N
An immersive exhibit that has toured the world since the first Avengers film, it has appeared in key retail areas such as New York Seoul Paris , Beijing, London and Las Vegas, and always pulls in huge crowds. Based on the global box-office film franchise, Marvel’s The Avengers, the store features real life movie props and interactive displays (…) There are Marvel branded items for sale but the goal of the project is not to shift T-shirts and mugs. It is about delivering an in-person experience to fans and bringing the brand to life.
The Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is a great example of retailtainment and experiential retail in action. Visitors are fully immersed in the fictional world they adore, further cementing their affiliation and love for the Marvel brand… However, through the use of retailtainment they are continuing to delight their customers beyond the screen. (thestorefront)
Will the emergence of retailtainment on this scale help boost high street sales? Perhaps – it is a big buy-in market though – retailtainment comes at a hefty price. But the experience it offers consumers over online shopping, and the memories it will create that simply can’t be compared to a digital experience, is a powerful tool for marketers the world over.
"To cope with it, retail technology is not a nice-to-have anymore, but the only way of moving forward while complying with the new normal. Retailtainment will probably become a tool in making customers come back to the stores and engage with the brands in a way that’s keeping them safe and making them feel happy." (Tokinomo)
And hey, if it’s about making people happy – we’re behind it!