The Next Frontier: The In-Store Shopping Experience
When merchandising invites experiential marketing and sponsorship marketing to the party, things are bound to get interesting. Best Buy teamed up with Samsung to open Samsung Experience Shops within Best Buy’s retail space, providing trained associates to help shoppers navigate the complex world of consumer electronics and giving them the opportunity to “test and play.” While this won’t eliminate the issue of “showrooming,” where consumers learn about a product in-store and then comparison- shop and buy online, this experience gives Best Buy the opportunity to start the conversation with a prospective customer, and hopefully influence where they ultimately buy.
Similarly, Pep-Boys seems to understand that the time and expense associated with auto repairs rarely conjures pleasant thoughts, but there are ways to improve the shopping experience. The DIY-ish automotive retailer is testing a new concept in Tampa that’s supposed to “make auto repair more accessible and engaging for customers,” read a statement announcing the new design. In addition to a more appealing décor, there is even a lounge with WiFi where customers can cool their heels and check their ipads while their cars are being serviced.
It’s time to take in-store merchandising to the next level. If Lexus can create a loyalty program by securing naming rights to the parking garage at Boston’s Logan Airport and offer premium, guaranteed parking through their PASSport Gold program, imagine the possibilities at retail.
Let’s close our eyes again and imagine the future of the In-Store Experience. Imagine a Recipe Resource Center in the supermarket, where you can ask a permanently placed, highly educated foodie everything from time-saving cooking tips, and food/wine pairings to the best calorie-cutting ingredient swaps. Maybe the foodie gives demos and cooking classes during off-peak shopping hours to drive incremental traffic. There’s something Peapod and Fresh Direct can’t deliver. So the question becomes: is the program called “The Kraft Foodie” or “The Kroger Foodie,” this week featuring recipes from the Kraft Kitchen? Let the merchandising negotiations begin.
Now let’s monetize this interaction. Recipes and tips shared in-store can be scanned via QR code and uploaded to the shopper’s retailer app. Coupons and offers can be targeted based on shopper interaction. VIP invitations to special events can be used to drive incremental shopping trips for customers that average the highest grocery spend. Branded content can drive merchandising dollars for retailers. Now there’s a reason to get off the couch.
Taking the Pep-Boys concept to the next level, why not conduct in-store seminars, hold workshops with NASCAR pit crews or even hold contests, such as who can replace a spark plug the fastest? Drive loyalty by hosting a Ladies Night where women learn how to change a tire, install a car seat, and add basic fluids under the hood.
It’s a safe bet that brands and their brick-and-mortar outlets are going to have to rethink how they interact with customers moving forward. Pep Boys and Best Buy are ahead of the pack but still early into the in-store experience trend which we believe can go deeper to include more interactive elements that will secure brand loyalty and leave customers re-energized about their shopping experience.