It’s no longer sufficient to offer products through pure necessity; customers can shop online for these essentials. If you’re a retailer looking for success in the offline world, it’s critical you offer fulfilling activities, inspiration and genuine ways to improve your customer’s life.
The high-street has seen a reduction in visitors as consumers are inclined to shop online (or not at all)! Lucy Johnston, consumer trend expert, believes “a clear movement is evolving through which global audiences seek more meaning in their chosen shopping experience” (2017, p.6). As a result, brands are increasingly expected to delight consumers through exciting experiences rather than traditional advertising.
Let’s consider the different ways you can interact with your customer. We consume and purchase products - not for their necessity - for their positive impacts on our lives. This benefit needs to be communicated at each stage of the customers’ journey through retail theatre. Shopping is an event, a production, and your brand takes centre-stage. Staff, packaging, and the atmosphere all impact your captive audience and their decision-making.
So what do we mean by retail theatre? Professor of Marketing, Steve Baron, defines this frequently used metaphor as a method of creating new consumer interest through design, merchandising, participation and interaction (2001).
You allow customers to physically interact with products, staff can educate their benefits, and your stores are a treat for the senses. You need to take this to the next level to create real meaning for your customers. Baron (2001) stresses it’s vital for shopkeepers to focus on all aspects of production to create a real sense of theatre. This view is shared by Johnston (2017) who states shopkeepers must evolve into curators and stage-managers.
Luxury retail expert, Jerome Monange, believes investment in retail experiences is to double (2019). Brick and mortar stores will become a playground where customers can shop for their identity. He argues that, although online retail offers efficiency and knowledge, majorities still prefer in-store shopping. Hence, online and offline must work together to combine functionality with emotion.
Another important way we can delve into customer experience is by immersing staff and guaranteeing their job satisfaction (Baron et al. 2001). It is not enough for staff to be a salesperson; they need to be an actor. Staff need to learn how to encourage customer interaction and to act out scenarios. This will take time, investment, and careful planning but it’s critical that training is facilitated by employers. Ivo J Au Yeung has opened the door to this, at Rolling Kids, in China. He believes customers are already experts thanks to our online world (2019). Because of this, his employees no longer need to explain product benefits, they are there to deliver a unique experience. They are personal stylists.
So how can retailers find success offline? In this crowded marketplace, intimacy is a great way to cut through noise. Provide your customers with an immersive and emotional experience so they can see, feel, hear, smell and even taste your brand. Excellent service demonstrates your passion for the business which, in turn, will rub off on your customers. Let these thoughtfully curated moments unfold before them and they will feel truly valued. These details will distinguish you from cheap imitations and leave a lasting impression. Personal touches can help form this intimacy between brand and consumer. If you’re a craftsman, artist or chef, why not allow your audience to see the workings of your business through performance? There is no quick-fix, it’s up to you to connect with your customers.
Excite the mind and the hand will reach for the pocket.
— Harry Selfridge, 1909
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Baron, S., Harris, K. and Harris, R. 2001. Retail Theatre: The “Intended” Effect of the Performance. Journal of Service Research. 4(2), pp.102-117
Johnston, L. 2017. The Creative Shopkeeper. London: Thames & Hudson
Monange, J. 2019. Understanding and Mastering Phydigitalisation. 26 January. Playtime Paris: Espace Evénements du Parc Floral de Paris
Yeung, I. J. A. 2019. Understanding and Mastering Phydigitalisation. 26 January. Playtime Paris: Espace Evénements du Parc Floral de Paris