It seems like every single day, the news media continues to pump out bad news for retail – and with good reason. Aside from the fact that gloom and doom draw attention and get clicks, inflation continues to eat into consumer purchasing power, and recession conditions are still wobbling toward our collective present.
None of these things have to spell disaster for retail, but they are undoubtedly on your radar. Many in the retail industry are looking for ways to keep shoppers in stores for longer, but that can be difficult to do when staples like eggs have reached the point where shoppers need to start questioning whether a dozen is worth picking up or not.
Retailers are now faced with anxious customers who want to save money while also having access to a wide selection of products. This is a tightrope act to be sure, but the first step in tackling these challenges is to look at how the customer journey begins in retail.
The rubber meets the road when consumers decide where to shop, which is the first step in the customer journey. Unfortunately, inflation has influenced this decision for many shoppers.
Seasoned retail veterans are used to offering “special pricing” to get customers in the door. However, when shoppers are up against tighter budgets, product selection and pricing may not be enough to accomplish this independently.
Instead, retailers need to re-evaluate how they attract customers to the store itself, and in doing so, customer experience should become the main focus. The store and its shopping experience must provide something worth getting excited over.
Once you get shoppers in the door, it’s a matter of keeping them there using pricing, selection, and customer experience, but driving traffic to your store is the first and most crucial step.
To accomplish this and place your store at the forefront of shoppers’ minds, retailers need to focus on the customer experience. What can your store offer that is memorable, impactful, and creates a desire to shop with your specific retail organization despite inflation or fears of a recession? Experiential marketing is the solution, and if you haven’t considered the full value of experiential marketing, now is the time to re-evaluate its position in your retail marketing strategy.
In combating consumer hesitation fueled by inflation fears and the possibility of a recession, experiential marketing serves as one of the best marketing ideas for retailers in all sectors. This approach allows retailers to demonstrate value instead of just talking about it.
Experiential marketing has gained in popularity, and brands like H&M are using this engagement strategy in a big way. In fact, H&M has been leaning heavily on experiential marketing through its new stores that promote activewear.
Most recently, H&M’s retail location in Brooklyn, NY, received attention for its focus on experiential marketing through in-store workout classes and chromotherapy lighting. Earlier in the month, H&M launched an experiential marketing campaign inside the popular online game Roblox. Dubbed “Loooptopia”, the in-game experience is designed to help introduce H&M to a younger audience by allowing player characters to try on branded clothing in a virtual setting.
Showfield’s, a department store with only a few iconic locations, believes in the concept of experiential marketing so much that its entire retail marketing strategy is built around the idea. Each store features different departments that serve as in-store promotion areas where customers can interact with the products inside themed showrooms. Instead of setting up one or two store demo stations, each store is a living demo of products.
The concept of the store sampling experience isn’t new, and Costco has famously been engaging shoppers using store sampling experiences for many years. However, as a retail marketing solution, the time-tested store demo is only one of several ways retailers can take advantage of experiential marketing – but why does experiential marketing work?
Experiential marketing works the same way as word of mouth marketing: it offers proof from a trusted source. For example, when you talk to a friend, family member, neighbor, or work colleague and that person recommends a product, you tend to put stock in their recommendation because you trust the person even if you have no experience with the brand or retailer. Likewise, despite not having your own customer experience with the brand or retailer in question, you trust the recommendations of those close to you. This is the strategic value of word of mouth marketing.
Experiential marketing does the same thing – it offers proof. After all, who can you trust more than yourself? Shoppers get to see, touch, hear, smell, and taste products (well, maybe not all products) to get verifiable proof that the product is what it claims to be and does what it claims to do. This makes experiential marketing perfect for on-the-spot sales, but experiential marketing can also lead to increased future sales.
Science has demonstrated that experiences become hard-wired or coded into our brains. Even when we can’t specifically recall the exact details of an experience, parts of the experience become imprinted in our minds. These imprints can influence future decisions, desires, and affections toward people, places, and things. By offering a customer experience in retail through experiential marketing, your store has the chance to create these lasting impressions that can go on to influence future purchase decisions.
Whenever you put together an experiential retail marketing event, consider the benefit it will offer shoppers. Right now, inflation is on everyone’s mind, so promote experiential marketing to let shoppers feel at ease with their purchasing decisions.
Shoppers may be hesitant to take chances with their budgets in our current economic climate, but by allowing them to experience products through experiential marketing, they can feel comfortable knowing they are getting value for their money. Keep this in mind whenever you’re planning any experiential marketing experience, and you’re sure to make an impact.
As demonstrated by H&M, Showfield’s, and Costco, experiential marketing is highly effective, but does this mean you need to create extravagant experiential marketing campaigns and store experiences to take advantage of this retail marketing strategy?
While it would be nice if every retailer could do this, budget constraints, limited time availability, and the resources needed to plan out elaborate customer experiences are in short supply for most in the retail industry. To make matters more complicated, gathering the resources required to put together experiential marketing solutions becomes more challenging when inflation is high, and customers are a bit tighter with their budgets.
The good news is that you don’t have to go over the top to deliver a lasting customer experience that will get shoppers in the door, keep them shopping longer, and have them coming back. Below are some experiential marketing ideas you can use to increase customer engagement even when inflation and fears of a recession are a challenge:
One way to engage customers through experiential marketing is to create a game show using products in your store. For instance, if you work in grocery retail, create a game show where contestants (shoppers) need to guess the calories in a particular item.
Create a board containing the answers, cover each with a piece of paper, and then reveal the answer after a shopper has guessed. Offer winners a prize like coupons or discounts that can be used on the products they guessed in the game. You can also add a health- and budget-conscious aspect to your game show for extra effect.
Another fun way to help customers experience your store is to create a store scavenger hunt. Shoppers could be provided with a list of items to look for in your store, and completing the scavenger hunt could result in a small reward like discounts on a future shopping trip.
Only some people will have the time or desire to participate, but your store will benefit from those who do.
Consider creating a low-cost version of your scavenger hunt promoting private-label brands to show support for customers burdened by inflation.
You can also promote a bring-a-friend day at your store. When you tie the day in with social media, this can be an effective retail marketing solution.
Set up small curated displays around your store, and then offer discounts to people bringing friends to shop. Encourage shoppers to take pictures with their friends at these displays and post them on social media with your unique hashtag. Pick a few winners from these pictures and promote them on your store’s social media, but provide in-store discounts or coupons to everyone who brings a friend and participates in your picture challenges.
Remember that the pivotal moment in the customer journey occurs when customers decide where to shop. You want your store to be the top choice among customers in your area despite inflation or other economic turbulence. Experiential marketing makes your store a destination, and the experiences it provides can be designed to take financial woes off the minds of beleaguered shoppers and give them a reason to choose your location over your competition.