2019 Retail Tech Trends: experiential retail

2018 has seen an increased focus from a number of retailers on the in-store customer experience, with the likes of Debenhams, John Lewis, Body Shop and Sephora all announcing a number of experiential initiatives to improve the retail experience and drive customer footfall amid growing competition from e-tailers.

While experiential retail will continue to play an important role on the high-street when it comes to offering shoppers something unique and immersive, we’re going to see even more retailers focusing on how they can create a community around the store itself. With the development of conversational technologies, like AI-powered chatbots, brands will need to become part of their customers’ daily life and gather real communities around themselves to add real value to their lives, in and beyond the shopping experience.

What does this look like in practice?

Brands are increasingly presenting their stores in a way that makes customers feel at home. Examples of this ‘apartment’ trend include Sonos, Sezane and Samsung, where consumers can test all the products in a home-like setting, meaning they are plugged in to experience it first-hand.

Many retailers have been thinking about how the store can be transformed into a meeting place, with internal cafe´s and restaurants, but this is evolving into stores becoming mini destinations. A great example of this is in the Reebok store in Paris, that has dedicated most of its store surface to allowing customers to play sports, or Eindhoven & Wilrijk stores in the Netherlands that have introduced everything from a DJ, coffee tasting, and a gaming corner to a hairdresser, and a chef using the latest kitchen appliances available to purchase in-store.

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In a similar vein, we’re also witnessing a growing trend towards the store becoming a living space where a community learns, plays sports, trains, or discovers a variety of things as a group. Good examples of this in practice are Lego in China where families are invited to go to the store to design innovative constructions, while having a good time together or the Canon Collective store in Australia that organises a variety of weekly activities, including photography guides for beginners, photo tours, and editing workshops in the store.

As we move into 2019, it’s critical that brands and stores focus on creating a spellbinding brand universe, powerful enough to transcend their products and foster a community around it. Creating specific experiences around this community aspect will be key for retailers looking to stay ahead of the curve, particularly in sectors like home and banking.