As experts in blended physical and digital retail experiences, we thought it would be worth expanding on how we do it and why it works. This article will give you an insight into the 7 key steps to the perfect project to re-energise your retail portfolio.
Brands are reimagining how physical retail spaces fit into the overarching customer journey, experience is a pivotal part. Brick-and-mortar stores are becoming more than just houses for product and sales; they are theatrical, must-visit destinations which foster meaningful connections and build brand loyalty. These spaces offer the opportunity to create unique immersive spaces which can’t be replicated online, ones that are tactile and discovery-driven, evoking emotion and imagination.
1. The ‘Why’
Not unlike the physical store design, firstly understanding what you are trying to achieve is fundamental when designing an immersive retail experience. Is the goal to increase dwell time, encourage product trial, or educate shoppers on product or brand? Who is the target audience? How will success be measured? Once this is known, you can begin to explore different ways it can be brought to life. Brands should aim to elevate or enhance their core values so that the experience goes beyond being a trend-driven novelty.
2. An enthralling narrative
Having pinned the ‘why?’ of the immersive experience, there’s opportunity to weave a continuous thread which holds the customer’s attention. Whether this is by transporting them to another world or placing them as the protagonist in the narrative; these techniques create intrigue and curiosity, helping to build a more powerful story. A compelling storyline not only makes the immersive experience more memorable, but it humanises the brand, facilitating deeper connections between them and their audience.
3. Multi-sensory moments
Those choosing to shop IRL often crave the tactility of it. Immersive experiences are physical touchpoints between customers and brands, so every moment should be amplified – through touch, smell, sound, or sight. Engaging each sense means interactions can be more than just passive. Visual elements like vibrant content and coloured lights can attract customers and hold their attention, whilst tangible touchpoints can create physical connections between them and the product. Immersive audio can envelop customers in the space, whilst using aromas and scents can lure them deeper into the environment and story. Such multi-sensory details give customers the realest sense of ‘being there’ and guarantees engagement with the physical space and brand alike.
4. Technology as an enabler
Immersive experiences rely entirely on technology to communicate their message and actualise the above points. The technology used not only determines how the story will be told, but opens infinite possibilities of how customers will interact with the environment. With the knowledge that people want their physical and virtual worlds to be linked more closely, brands can achieve this to varying degrees. Unlike VR which places you in an entirely new virtual environment, AR, projection mapping and digital content create an enhancement of the real world, adding layers to what already exists. Integrating such technologies into the experience artfully blends reality with fiction, seamlessly blending the physical and digital.
5. Personalised touchpoints
Like real relationships, customers want the exchanges they have with a brand to be meaningful and valuable. With immersive experiences, retailers have a unique opportunity to give each customer an experience that is truly personalised to them, extending beyond the monotonous and after-event targeted emails. By leveraging consumer data, they can know their audience more deeply, and as a result create personalised micro-moments, peppering the experience with surprise-and-delight to really resonate with them. These instances of feeling known and understood by brands leads to greater brand advocacy and long-lasting loyalty, setting retailers apart from their competition.
6. Opportunities for engagement
Having curated a completely on-brand experience that is rich in storytelling, personality and meaning, creating engagement with user generated content and word-of-mouth shares is the next task. Whether it’s organic photo opportunities or a downloadable takeaway the customer receives post-experience, the shareability of the experience is key to it’s longevity. Experiences give consumers more reasons to visit your store, so why not give them a reason to keep talking about it?
7. Keep them coming back
Giving customers an incentive to revisit the experience is imperative to its success - simply put, rewarding interaction and participation. Additions like leaderboards and unlockable features/levels based on game-play performance or number of visits, both increases peer-to-peer competitiveness and customer engagement with the experience. Newness like refreshed content and adding games or challenges piques curiosity from customers; whilst collectibles or exclusive prizes creates hype and a desire to replay and outperform themselves or competitors.
The allure of developing an immersive experience and the promise of emerging technologies can often overwhelm the meaning and purpose – to create a real connection with your customer. To remain focused, brands should always consider immersive experiences as an extension of their retail strategy and aim for value-adding in-store experience which is in keeping with their brand values, business goals and customer needs. We know this works, it is the foundation of our recent projects with PUMA, Burberry, HOKA and Vodafone to name a few.