Redefining the Retail Experience

*This blog was originally posted by Booodl CEO & Founder, George Freney, on LinkedIn*

Increasingly we’re seeing physical stores move beyond the realm of products – it’s no longer just about the stuff, it’s about the experience.

Shoppers visit the Burberry Regent St. store in London for coffee at their stylish café, Thomas’s. Lorna Jane activewear lovers can enjoy a yoga class and cold-pressed juice at the LA or Queensland branch before browsing and buying the latest collection.

They’re not alone: more and more retailers are exploring alternate ways to get customers to head on in.

The holiday season was testament to the idea. In New York, Target’s Winter Wonderland provided a whole realm of family fun: giant etch-a-sketches, ball pits, pirate ships and mascots. And behind that was the commercial intent: shoppable merchandise, careful product placements, and tiny RFID scanners to add your wants to your virtual shopping cart. In-store experiences are the clever way in, because let’s be honest, you’re going for the giant ball pit but leaving with a ball pit full of purchases.

The in-store food trend is certainly one taking off overseas, albeit primarily in the luxury context. Ralph Lauren opened Ralph’s Coffee on the second floor of its Polo flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York, while Gucci recently launched a bistro, Gucci Café, in its store in Shanghai’s IAPM shopping centre.

If you can’t create your own from scratch, then collaborate: Club Monaco unveiled a coffee shop (Toby’s Estate) in its rebranded flagship, and Wolf & Badger boutique opened up the basement beneath its London Dover Street location to healthy food brand Raw Press. The result? A better retail experience and more customers for both parties, according to Wolf & Badger Co-Founder, George Graham.

Experiences can also be those using digital to anticipate the behaviour of consumers. According to Digital Marketing Magazine, 2016 is the year retailers are looking to the ‘stores of the future’. The ones who get ahead will be creating environments that are trusted, engaging and interactive. They’ll offer leisure, experience and convenience, and create a truly omnichannel experience that merges the best of online and offline in a seamless manner.

Just look at Sephora. At the end of last year, it digitised the physical shop with its 3.0 concept store in Paris. It housed Interactive terminals, mural tablets, digital shelves, selfie mirrors and phone chargers. Sephora study and anticipate the digitally driven behaviour of today’s consumer, and craft exceptional in-store retail experiences around the findings.


Our Take on it


If you’re a well established retailer with the capital and ability to undertake something like any of the above, then good for you. But don’t get too carried away: everything surrounding your in-store experience needs to resonate with and embody your brand. The Active Living Room makes sense for Lorna Jane, an active leisurewear manufacturer, as does a luxe British-inspired café for Burberry.

Joe Pine, co-author of The Experience Economy and co-founder of Strategic Horizons, sums it up well in a recent article for Business of Fashion:

“If you, as a retailer, can get your customers to spend more time with you, then, naturally, they will spend more money as well…If [the experience] harmonises well with the brand, then it is going to enhance that brand and cement the relationship consumers have with the retailer. They will associate the good sensations, feelings and memories they have of the experience with the brand, the retailer and its merchandise.

But it still has to be said, nothing beats the basics. If you haven’t got excellent customer service, no in-store offering is going to move the dial. Friendly, personable, helpful staff are a must. Delivering what you promise is essential, as is strong consistent branding and a seamless experience across mobile, web and physical store. Finally, making sure your basic SDO (store discovery optimisation) is complete is non-negotiable, otherwise people won’t find you in the first place.

Once you’ve got these foundations sorted, start thinking about what you can offer your customers beyond the simple in-store “browse and purchase” experience.


Booodl’s Tips


How can smaller retailers go about this? Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  1. Define your brand: knowing who you are and what you stand for as a brand are crucial before undertaking any kind of experiential activity, otherwise your offering won’t resonate and stick with your customers. What do you want people to think about your brand? What do you stand for? These are good places to start.
  2. Collaborate: what other small businesses operate around you? Instead of starting from scratch why don’t you partner up with a like-minded retailer. For example, if you sell male accessories, why not do a special night with the barber down the road? That’s a match made in heaven and is similar to what Hackett in London do: in-store grooming and shopping…. I’m sold. Get out there, see who’s around and dream up some great partnerships.
  3. Utilise downtime: To test the waters, why not use your store and experiment with a few ideas in the evenings when you would usually be closed? Do you run a fashion store? You could host talks with other inspiring creatives at night. Art stores are known for hosting supper clubs at night in New York, why not bring that concept here?



We believe retailers are missing a trick when it comes to the physical store experience. Luxury brands seem to be leading the charge, but that’s set to change in 2016 as everyday retailers get in on the action.

There are so many opportunities to offer incredible in-store experiences (where the majority of customers prefer to shop) beyond what is traditionally expected of a store. As long as you have strong foundations, the sky is the limit.

What do you think? Have you come across any stores offering incredible experiences? Share them in the comments.


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