Due to the pandemic, a growing challenge for brick-and-mortar retail stores is convincing consumers to continue buying products in-person. The move to online purchasing was happening well before the pandemic set in; however, stay-at-home orders drove a jump in e-commerce sales from $266.84 billion (2019) to $347.26 billion (2020).

This spike represents a 30% increase on a year-over-year basis and is far beyond online sales predictions for 2020. So, what's a brick-and-mortar retailer to do? How can they bring customers back in-store? Well, we have some ideas that will bring out the showmen and women in retail.

It's About the Experience

Enter "retailtainment"—a form of experiential retail designed to inject life into conventional retail stores and make the shopping experience entertaining, fun, and memorable.  The overarching aim of retailtainment is to engage and educate shoppers while they peruse in-store offerings. Those satisfied with experiential retail are more likely to buy, return for subsequent visits, and steer others toward the store by sharing on social media.

Shared Experience

Social media can influence purchases in-store when friends post about products—aka word of mouth. According to a report from Deloitte, "Consumers who use social media during their shopping process are ≈4x more likely than non-users to spend more or significantly more on purchases as a result of a digital shopping experience." The overarching aim is for the in-store shopping experience to prove indelible enough that customers want to share it with their friends, buy the product, then continue to think about it long after making a purchase. 

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Where's the Balance

There is a delicate balance between providing an enjoyable and educational experience and overdoing experience-based retail with an abundance of large screens, endless noise, and overstimulation. Retailers and brands who engage customers through the strategic use of experiential retail will succeed in separating their establishment and products from the rest.  

Retail displays that combine products with entertainment can make the traditional in-store shopping experience more alluring. In some cases, simply adding a product display with technology such as a demonstration or instructional video makes the difference between customers bypassing a product and buying it. 

Customers Are in the Driver's Seat

The days of capturing additional market share by providing customers with the broadest possible selection or the lowest possible price are fading. An enjoyable shopping experience may be the new bare minimum to counter the ease of online shopping. In particular, the millennial and Generation Z age cohorts represent the big-spenders of the future, and they crave experiences as opposed to material objects. Brands and retailers that invest the effort necessary to build a community around their offerings will likely prevail.

The bottom line? Even with breakthroughs in technology that have empowered customers, shoppers are still eager to go to brick-and-mortar stores. Provide an immersive shopping experience through customized video and audio built into product displays, and experience-hungry shoppers will be back for more. Brick-and-mortar retail stores that embrace the opportunity to “retailtain” customers will have a better chance of thriving as the experience economy takes off.

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