This isn’t the first time you’ll hear that e-commerce is challenging traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s become evident that customers are looking for more from retailers, as they’re increasingly turning to online giants like Amazon and eBay to buy everything from food to fashion, forcing traditional retailers to take drastic measures in order to compete.
Recent research from Barclaycard has given bricks-and-mortar vendors some hope by revealing that hosting in-store events and creating an immersive experience can help them not only survive the online onslaught but flourish.
After surveying 251 senior decision-makers in retail and over 2,000 customers, the researchers found that hosting events and providing entertainment in physical stores could boost their annual turnover by 14% on average. Additionally, experiences like these could prove particularly effective in grabbing the attention of young people. Customers between 18 and 24 are twice as likely to want stores to offer things like celebrity meet-and-greets, fitness events, and education courses. With results like these, it’s hardly surprising that decision-makers in the retail industry plan to increase their investment in events by 113% over the next two years.
So with in-store experience looking likely to become the biggest focus for most brick-and-mortar retailers in 2018, we thought we’d highlight some of the early adopters who are leading the way.
John Lewis 'National Treasures" Campaign
Earlier this year British based retail giant, John Lewis launched an experience-focused campaign called “National Treasures” which celebrated the British summertime.
The campaign featured 220 life-size cartoon illustration displays by artist Paul Thurlby in storefront windows. The installations were displayed in all 48 John Lewis stores across the UK. This idea encapsulated all aspects of the British summertime, from sunburn and ice cream vans to fish and chips at the seaside.
The campaign was John Lewis’s biggest and most interactive yet, which included video (above) and a program of live interactive events and workshops designed to promote John Lewis stores as "destinations of discovery", a company statement said.
The summer season program was aimed at consumers and included masterclasses, seminars and Q&A sessions.
Speaking to media at the launch event, John Lewis' PR chief Peter Cross said: "Customers will be able to visit our shops and leave having learnt, laughed at, tried and tasted some of our nation's absolute favorite things."
John Lewis also treated visitors at their flagship store on London’s famous Oxford Street with an escape from bustling city life in the Gardening Society themed rooftop space, where the retailer set up a small pub called the Gardeners’ Arms. They also hosted fitness and gardening classes on the rooftop which were booked prior to visiting the store.
Cross, said: “We wanted to create an integrated campaign that celebrates those iconic moments and traditions that make us who we are as a nation.”
These in-store events allowed John Lewis to attract people into a store for an experience, improving the relationship between the retailer and the customer, while exposing the attendees to many of their own products used in the immersive spaces or in classes.
Apple's "Today at Apple" Concept
For years Apple has been leading the way in terms of imagining unique in-store concepts, and earlier this year announced they will be rolling new educational sessions in all 495 Apple stores.
The topics range from video and photography to music, coding, art, design and many more. These interactive sessions form part of Apple’s campaign called “Today at Apple” and will be led by professionally skilled Apple experts and renowned members of the arts community. The structure of the sessions will range from teaching basics and how-to lessons to professional-level programs.
Apple wants to make each of its Apple stores a central community nerve center, bound by shared technology that nurtures personal connections. “At the heart of every Apple Store is the desire to educate and inspire the communities we serve,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s Senior Vice President, Retail. “‘Today at Apple’ is one of the ways we’re evolving our experience to better serve local customers and entrepreneurs. We’re creating a modern-day town square, where everyone is welcome in a space where the best of Apple comes together to connect with one another, discover a new passion, or take their skill to the next level. We think it will be a fun and enlightening experience for everyone who joins.”
Hence, the social connections that Apple technology creates, now become real, purposeful and deeply personal at each Apple Store.
Warby Parker “The Green Room”
Warby Parker is obviously doing something right. The online-native, direct-to-consumer eyewear brand plans to open its 70th store before the end of the year. A pretty quick expansion, given that it opened its first store less than four years ago.
But how is this savvy innovator brand drawing people into its stores? By focusing on creating unique, immersive and ‘instagrammable’ in-store experiences.
The retailer's latest experience at their new LA Melrose Avenue store is one of the best yet. In the store there is a separate room made into a green screen - dubbed the “green room” - which offers a photo booth experience in which customers can record their own short videos against a variety of entertaining backdrops, including a big pepperoni pizza and a palm tree-lined boulevard.
The room is also equipped with a variety of props to enhance the fun like glasses with green-screen lens (so the backdrop fills them in), a green-screen blanket (so you become just a floating head) and, as you would expect, you can take in any of the optical or sunglasses that you want. The video can then simply be sent to yourself in order to share on social.
The idea was a fun hat tip to the store’s proximity to Hollywood’s film industry, this is backed up by the movie theater sign which rotates titles in the storefront window, clapboards dotted around, and a big Hollywood-themed mural by LA-based artist Alia Penner.
This all forms part of Warby Parker’s larger strategy to drive people into the store with unique immersive experiences. "The best brands and retailers have to give people a reason to go into a store," explains Co-Founder and Co-CEO Dave Gilboa.
Want to continue learning about retail events? Download our free eBook, Transforming the Customer Experience Through In-Store Events here.