In-Store, Online and Everywhere in Between—Experience Reigns Supreme in 2018

January 8, 2018

Retailers exist for one simple purpose: to sell products. Right? That may have been the general consensus in the past, but as the song goes, “the times, they are a-changin’.” For hundreds of years, retailers have operated under the model that they stock products on their shelves, customers buy them, they restock and customers come back when they need more. But thanks to changing lifestyles and consumer demands as well as the rise of online shopping, successful retail environments have had to become much less commodity- and purchase-focused.

“Stores today are no longer just places to purchase, they are places to experience,” says Ryan Dee, Creative Director for Daymon’s consumer experience marketing team. This shift is driving changes not only in the way retailers and brands engage with shoppers in-store but in other spaces as well—including online. It’s also a common thread in the top four experiential marketing trends Dee predicts will be big in 2018.

To start, while not completely new, Dee says multisensory experiences will become more important than ever. When it comes to the traditional in-store product demonstration, Dee explains, this means going beyond a simple taste test and incorporating additional elements that attract other senses, such as sight, hearing and smell. “You could have a chef experience where you’re encouraging customers to help create their own samples and take photos or videos. That makes the experience much more meaningful.”

Upscale pop-up events are another growing trend that have a similar purpose. “Upscale pop-up events are definitely gaining traction,” says Dee. “Cheetos recently did a bistro-style pop-up restaurant where all of the menu items incorporate Cheetos into the recipes in some way, while Taco Bell recently launched a wedding service [at its Las Vegas location].”

While these might not be brands you would expect an upscale experience from, both were highly successful—and something Dee says retailers can learn from. “With brick-and-mortar shrinking, retailers need to up their game and offer events and features their competitors are not offering. This kind of elevated and unexpected experience can really be a point of differentiation, not just from physical competitors but also digital competitors.”

Speaking of digital, experiential marketing will also start to play a bigger role on the digital stage in 2018, says Dee, who predicts user-generated content will be the third big trend for retailers and brands to capitalize on. “We know consumers are going to post their opinions online, so it behooves retailers and brands to embrace that and work together to make it mutually beneficial,” he explains. Retailers and brands can do this in a variety of ways, such as promoting customized hashtags for consumers to use and encouraging content development through photo, video or recipe contests.

The fourth and final trend, influencer marketing, is a similar tactic that has already begun to grow and will continue to proliferate in 2018, says Dee. This form of digital marketing enables brands and retailers to leverage the authentic relationships influencers have already built with their followers, which makes the message being delivered feel more approachable. Influencers also create a dialogue with their followers by encouraging and responding to comments. This type of engagement is increasingly becoming a cornerstone of the kind of experience consumers are expecting from retailers and brands.

“Retailers and brands need to realize that the end-goal isn’t always about the immediate purchase—it’s about creating the relationship with the consumer,” concludes Dee.

To learn more about Daymon’s consumer experience marketing services, contact Maegan Zitren, Senior Business Development Manager at MZitren@InteractionsMarketing.com.

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