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How to leverage experiential marketing to keep consumers engaged

Experiential marketing is more than an industry buzzword. It’s quickly becoming the way marketers build brand loyalty. Experiential retail offers shoppers a unique and meaningful experience that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to obtain when shopping from home.

While smartphones and websites are still very much important to the modern shopper, 90% of sales still take place in physical venues. The branded experience attracts new prospects and repeat visitors on the front-end, while traditional retail awaits in the background to close the deal when patrons have finished their interaction. To keep consumers engaged, brands should consider incorporating experiential marketing into their overall strategy.   

Planning Your Experiential Marketing Strategy

The secret to great experiential marketing is finding the right way to involve and entertain shoppers, so they remember your brand and the experience of shopping. By going above and beyond the typical shopping experience, people will be genuinely excited to hand you their business and will naturally want to tell the world about it as loyal brand ambassadors.

Forbes describes six essentials for effective experiential retail. The strategy must be:

  • intuitive—allowing shoppers to find what they want or need without confusion or delay.
  • human—a personalized interaction with friendly staff members.
  • meaningful—making a difference in the lives and identities of your customers.
  • immersive—presented in an unconventional and enjoyable atmosphere.
  • accessible—with technology that enables purchases by phone, website, or store.
  • personalized—acknowledging preferences and rewarding guests for favorable actions. 

These features are simply the hallmarks of good salesmanship, though the experience you create will add unique branding and an air of exclusivity to your shop.

Easy Ways to Leverage Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing can be simple or elaborate, depending on your budget and goals. Some companies undertake massive store overhauls to create a defined sense of place, while others prefer to implement small, ever-changing campaigns. Introducing experiential marketing to your mix could be as easy as incorporating the right technology or re-training front-end staff. 

Here are 10 ideas to get you started: 

  1. Integrate your store events with social media. Hashtags are an easy way to link digital and physical. Promoting your brand through social media is a popular way to generate buzz for an upcoming event. Create a campaign that alerts social media fans of what’s happening, whether it’s a new product launch or brand partnership. You can also use your event to market your social media website, so you will stay fresh in the minds of shoppers. Be sure to encourage participants to upload their photos and videos, use your hashtag, and share with friends—providing free word-of-mouth marketing.
  2. Add digital elements to your physical location. It’s no secret consumers love technology. Neiman Marcus has received a lot of positive press since they added camera and touch screen equipped “smart” mirrors to their stores, allowing guests to choose different lighting, compare styles, request different sizes or items, save trial history, watch video tutorials, receive personalized style tips, and share finds on social media. Augmented mirrors are just one type of digital technology used by cutting-edge experiential marketers. Other options include QR codes and digital price tags, autonomous shopping carts, in-store tablets, storage lockers, interactive windows, and virtual reality. 
  3. what is experiential marketingPersonalize the shopping experience. Retailers are increasingly implementing proximity beacons to personalize the retail shopping experience. As shoppers (who have opted-in) travel through the store, they are greeted with personalized messages on their smartphones and relevant advertisements triggered by nearby product beacons. Smart technology allows beacons to recognize shoppers by their smartphones and tailor messaging to shoppers based on past purchases or browsing history. 
  4. Rethink staff training. It doesn’t matter how neat your store is if your frontline staff is not adequately trained to support your brand. Modern retail workers are breaking out of the stereotypical mold. They are no longer low-paid robots programmed to repeat sales pitches and aggressively upsell. Train your staff to relate to shoppers—to address their needs and past experiences, and to offer more personalized recommendations. 
  5. Encourage shoppers to have fun. Shoppers like physical locations because they can interact with products in person. They’re not trying to imagine the 360-view of a product from a static image online. They’re not trying to imagine how a particular fabric feels. They’re experiencing it in person. Try to brainstorm ways to allow even more interaction with your products. Burton Snowboards’ Test Ride Centers at select retailers near major ski resorts provide another great example of “try before you buy” in retail—allowing travelers the option to leave their gear at home and try the latest products. 
  6. Enable click-and-collect. Many people don’t have time to shop in-store, but they need the items right away and don’t want to pay for shipping. Allowing these shoppers to buy online and pick up in-store is a great service to add. The experience can work the other way around when you allow in-store shoppers to quickly and easily order out-of-stock items or different sizes and color options than what you have on display. If you sell bulky items like appliances, furniture, or consumer electronics you might consider a convenient ship-to-home option.
  7. Simplify checkout. Long lines at checkout are the surest way to diminish your retail experience. The conventional workaround to long queues is to have more registers open and sufficient cashiers to service shoppers. Technology allows more ways than ever to expand your checkout capacity. Self-service checkout at supermarkets is nothing new, but clothing stores, beauty shops, homeware retailers, and others are using an iPad as your point of sale. This allows for greater versatility, where any staff member in the store can proactively eliminate bottlenecks. The most innovative brands like Sam’s Club are incorporating Scan and Go technology, which alleviates demands on staff members entirely and lets customers scan with their smartphones and pay within an app. 
  8. Offer unique in-store entertainment. Dubbed “retailtainment,” marketers see a need for incorporating a blend of sound, ambiance, emotion, and activity that puts customers in the mood to buy. Think of it like Disney on Ice—is there any way you’re walking out of the theatre without some sort of flashing wand, crown, bucket of popcorn, or plush toy? Would it be a trip to the county fair without going on a ride, playing a game, or sampling a prize-winning pie? The combination of sights and sounds makes purchasing more acceptable as part of the experience. The fusion of retail shopping and entertainment that you offer will depend on the unique attributes of your store and its clientele. You essentially want to give your audience something they have not and cannot see every day or elsewhere.  
  9. Make your store social media-worthy. Pop-up shops are the masters of creating spaces that beg to be photographed and uploaded to social media, but traditional retailers are figuring out innovative ways to bring shoppers into a branded dreamscape. Shoppers in New York and San Francisco were willing to pay nearly $40 a ticket to make their way through the Museum of Ice Cream, where guests walk through Candyland and literally swim in rainbow sprinkles, not to mention sample and buy ice cream! The trend has taken off from coast to coast, with a number of spin-offs debuting, from The Egg House and The Cado (for avocados) to The Museum of Pizza and The Color Factory. Aside from pop-ups, stores like Anthropologie and L’Occitane consider themselves “experiential” by nature, offering seasonally themed wonderlands that attract shutterbugs and social media influencers alike. 
  10. Create a sense of community. Brands like Starbucks and Whole Foods have united with their consumers’ identities through an emphasis on storytelling, ambiance, and quality that resonates. Offering events is one way to draw a sense of community. For instance, Home Depot offers kid crafts and DIY workshops, Tops Markets has cooking classes, and Vans stores feature skate parks that encourage a full day of hanging out. The idea is to present a space that allows local hobbyists to meet other like minded people. Community building involves more than holding events—it’s about creating and sustaining real relationships with your clientele. Through community-building efforts, you can get to know the people you serve better, which leads to improved product offerings and service. 

Ready to Get Started With Experiential Marketing?

Shopkick is experiential—it creates a fun, unique, memorable, engaging experience by leveraging technology that engages smartphone-wielding customers in-store. Shoppers find increased convenience, choice, and accessibility through our platform, which uses beacons to send personalized messages to shoppers and gamification to engage customers with products in the store. 

Experiential marketing is more than an industry buzzword. It’s quickly becoming the way marketers build brand loyalty.

When Rimmel London wanted to drive awareness of their products and encourage shoppers to seek them out at shelf, they chose to partner with Shopkick. One of the brand’s goals was to cut through the clutter of the beauty aisle to drive purchase and gain consumer insight. Shopkick first leveraged in-app content to build awareness of Rimmel London products and influence the perception of Rimmel as a top beauty brand. Next, proximity messaging kept Rimmel London products top of mind while consumers were out shopping and when they entered the store. Finally, Shopkick drove ‘trial-in-aisle’ direct product engagements with multiple Rimmel London products while shopping, driving proven incremental conversion through purchase validation. By sending customers on a virtual scavenger hunt, Rimmel drove shoppers right to their products on shelf, even in an aisle crowded by other beauty products. 

  • The Results: Rimmel London built awareness, drove users to its products in-store at crowded shelves, stayed top-of-mind and captured major share of wallet from other beauty brands. The brand was able to implement an in-store rewards program that encouraged consumers to scan product UPCs with their phones in exchange for kicks (rewards points). Overall, Rimmel reported pulling 14% market share from competitors in stores where this strategy was implemented.

At Shopkick, we believe in creative retail strategies built from the best of the past, present, and future. That’s why our partners find such success when incorporating our innovative shopping app into their experiential marketing strategy. Contact us to start using Shopkick to help improve customer engagement in your own retail brand. 

Image courtesy of GP Studio