Contributed by Richa Kapoor
"Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer"
Retail in India is at the crossroads. It has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fast paced industries with several players entering the market. Today the customer experience is fragmented. Prices, inventory, promotions and policies often differ between channels. Yet, customers want a seamless shopping experience across all channels. They want to order products online but return them to the store. They want to browse products in the store, yet order online, from a kiosk or a catalog. They want prices, return policies and promotions to be consistent across all channels.
To meet the demands of today's consumers, a solid understanding of "the customer experience" is necessary. Consumers today expect their favorite retailers to offer "experience" along with good service and a good product.
The old saying, "You never get a second chance to make the first impression," most definitely rings true in retailing. Whatever advertising and promotion precedes it, the in-store experience is where it all comes together. Creating a friendly, comfortable and professional retail environment will sets a retailer apart from the box stores.
The face of our retail landscape has been changing rapidly and with it, the strategy for communicating with consumers. We are taught that we should communicate "features and benefits" in the context of direct marketing. While this is a sound advice, it is incomplete. Consumers do not approach "shopping" from a purely logical basis, seeking rationale, and functional value. Consumers want to be excited, entertained, and educated. People want to belong, they want to be admired, they want to be secure…Customers seek meaning beyond the base-level selling proposition offered in most catalog and direct marketing product presentations today.
So how does a Retailer, distinguish himself ……. One answer is to make the absolute use of every in-store sales opportunity through experiential retailing
Experiential Retailing is a type of marketing that attempts to evoke a strong emotional response, often by the use of sensory techniques, to create an affinity between a product and a potential buyer.
Experiential Retail is used to enroll consumers in programs focused on total lifestyle experiences. Also, helps in focusing on selling beyond "features and benefits" rather Selling customer solutions-not selling a trimmer or edger but a finely manicured lawn.
Importantly, the idea of experiential retailing reflects a right brain bias because it is about fulfilling consumers' aspirations to experience certain feelings – comfort and pleasure on one hand, and avoidance of discomfort and displeasure on the other.
Experiential retailing is more than an opportunity to show off all the bells and whistles of a product, however. "It's all about emotions and feelings, achieving some sort of feeling,"
Experiential retailing means making connections with consumers who come to interactive stores for more than merchandise. "One has to win the hearts and minds of consumers by doing something that benefits them and showcases the product"
Retailers know experiential retailing allows them to empower a consumer to connect physically or emotionally with a product or service. The consumers are engaged and entertained and subtly sold to by providing enhanced experiences. As a result, consumers buy lifestyle associations and not products, thus encouraging them to spend more.
The interactive approach means higher traffic and longer stay than typical, the finest example of
In-store experimental retailing is American Girls Place the little girls who arrive at American Girl Place dressed like the dolls they hold in their arms show what's possible when merchants take an experiential approach to retailing.
In addition to museum like displays of the upscale dolls and their accessories, American Girl Place stores include a café with special booster seats for the 18-inch dolls. Then there's the on-site theater featuring young actresses as characters from the company's books, and a salon
where girls might queue up for more than an hour to get their dolls' hairdos made over.
It's all about providing a rich experience for customers, many of whom travel from out of state to visit the three stores, in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. "For an American Girl fan, coming to American Girl Place is like a pilgrimage of sorts. Little wonder that experiential stores are sometimes called destination stores.
By focusing on what the customer wants to get out of the retail experience, experiential marketers strive to engage customers with more than raw product. The goal is to create an interactive experience that no one else can replicate.
For an experiential strategy to be effective, it's obviously important to know what the audience
is most interested in. In India where Retail is still nascent stage similar products are available
across multiple stores – EBOs as well as MBOs, which offers the consumers with a wide choice in terms of products and location of purchase but lack the memory a consumer would like to carry home with himself and cherish for many coming years. In such a scenario the only way to differentiate for a retailer and emerge as a winner of consumer trust, remembrance and attach to himself with superior quality shopping experience rather than a product or service experiential retailing could prove to be instrumental in deciding the fate of the already crowded Retail Space in India..