Beware of ‘experiential retail’ – the term is far too broad to mean very much and should perhaps be consigned to the dustbin.
Sitting listening to a number of speakers at the Retail Week Interiors Summit last Thursday, there was talk of ‘experience’ and how it is an indispensable weapon for retailers who want to be successful.
During the course of the day, however, it became clear that there was little agreement on what actually constitutes an experience, and that it ranged from some pretty sophisticated interactive digital wizardry to little more than an in-store graphics package.
For want of anything better to do, therefore, here’s an alternative take on what experience may mean in a retail context.
The temptation at this point is to insert a few blank lines, because experience means everything, and that is quite difficult to cover in around 400 words.
“Everything is, in truth, an experience, and those bandying around the term and making reference to ‘experiential retail’ might just as well bite the bullet and say that what they mean is ‘shops ’n that’”
Experience may mean anything from serried ranks of freezers (Iceland) to creating your own coat of arms for a collared pique T-shirt (Polo Ralph Lauren).
Everything is, in truth, an experience, and those bandying around the term and making reference to ‘experiential retail’ might just as well bite the bullet and say that what they mean is ‘shops ’n that’.
There are currently a myriad of buzzwords that don’t mean very much, but experience is one of the more over-used and is the currency of snake-oil salesmen and purveyors of new clothes for emperors.
At its most positive, experience may mean that which makes shoppers buy more stuff, but it’s possibly better to describe what’s being done in a store than to apply a meaningless term to it.
If this understanding is applied, then surely it must be that which good retailers everywhere, from market-stall holders to grand department store operators, have been doing since retail first made an appearance.
Equally, it might be worth considering if experience just means entertaining shoppers, getting them to buy something and then ensuring they come back.
Put this way, experience equates to ‘good shops’, rather than ones that are given a wide berth.
All of which is perhaps a rather long-winded way of saying that experience is the most inconsequential term you are likely to come across in the world of shops and what they look and feel like.
Non-experiential retailing just means very dull shops, and no retailer would admit to making this a keystone of any kind of in-store marketing strategy.
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