March 2nd, 2023

Stores are bastions for truly experiential moments...

Over recent decades, we have seen the rapid increase of e-commerce, with advancements in IT and the rise of marketplace giants, such as Amazon, giving rise to ecommerce’s convenience and accessibility, and its subsequent popularity among consumers. However, this lacks tangibility and fails to go beyond the simply transactional, leaving bricks-and-mortar stores as bastions for truly experiential moments. Brands cannot rely on the interest and innovation of their products alone to ‘wow’ their customers, especially when we consider that “73% of Gen Z & Millennials valuing experiences over products” (Savvy). Designing an immersive B&M store will entice customers and serve as an essential step in their purchasing journey.

Adidas SDI Birmingham-Low Res-15 - Retail Store Design

1.0 Offers opportunity for testing and trialing

Buying a product can sometimes be a bit of a gamble, in a variety of industries. For example, when it comes to sporting and lifestyle apparel and equipment, when it’s all about improving performance, or beauty products when it’s all about colour matching, or home furnishings when it’s all about touch and feel. To cut out the lengthy process and hassle of buying an item online, testing the item at home, and then returning the item if it isn’t appropriate, which isn’t always possible especially with beauty products, having a physical store can allow customers to trial a number of products all in one place.

Some brands are going to the extent of introducing specific trialling labs into their stores, such as Sports Direct. Within their Birmingham location, the retailer encourages customers to test out the new adidas 4DFWD trainers on a treadmill before their purchase to get a feel of the shoe for its intended use. Trailing labs enable customers to test out products whilst still in the decision-making stage, and make in-person comparisons between products, for a more informed purchase.

2.0 Increases purchasing confidence

Introducing a physical retail activation such as a store offers a more considered and structured approach to a brand’s identity, bringing a sense of trust and credibility to their customers. As I’m sure many of us have experienced before, when we find a new brand online we may be hesitant to trust them and their products, especially if reviews are not readily available combined with online scams being so prevalent. Seeing a brand move offline and being visible on the highstreets almost offers a sense of confidence in that brand and reassurance compared to when purchasing online.

Relatively new furniture brand, Moustache, have acknowledged this notion by saying, “Over the last 10 years, we have observed our users and realised that the nature of the objects we sell requires a special approach and a physical interaction in order to build trust with our customers, having previously exclusively selling online”. They have responded to this by opening their first ever physical store in Canal Saint Martin, Paris, selling the most popular products from their online offering.


3.0 Aids brand storytelling

Stories spark an emotional response. Storytelling is human and creates relevance. With brands forever evolving the way that
they tell their brands’ narratives, the consumer-facing message needs to be more engaging and pertinent than ever before, and a bricks-and-mortar store offers the perfect platform to do just that. Brands need to think carefully about the why, the who, the what, and the where, but telling a rich and compelling brand story without overloading a customer with information can be challenging. A physical store is supportive of brand storytelling as it allows brands to reveal more with each step that a customer takes when exploring the space, facilitated by a number of instore touchpoints, overall helping to build a solid relationship between a brand and their customers.

Gentle Monster is arguably one of the best at storytelling, from the often compelling and visionary message that it delivers, to its methods of delivering this message through innovative touchpoints instore. This is no truer than in Gentle Monster’s Hanam store in South Korea inspired by the mathematical principles of self-similarity – the idea that a self-similar object is exactly or approximately similar to a part of itself. This principle is depicted throughout the space via a series of artworks, images and kinetic installations.

4.0 Creates an experiential moment

A large segment of consumers is is no longer shopping at bricks-and-mortar locations out of necessity and convenience, but
rather for the experience that they offer. Therefore, brands that hope to continue trading via bricks-and-mortar must offer something additional within their store that goes beyond the purely transactional to ensure they set themselves aside from
the fierce competition on the high street.

A brand or retailer might choose to do this by providing experiential touchpoints in addition to the retail environment’s existing format to give customers a choice between shopping convenience and shopping experience. This might be achieved by providing touchpoints that customers have no choice but to experience in order to complete a purchase; or by providing a rich brand experience absent of trade and transaction via guerrilla marketing tactics in the form of an experiential marketing activation or event.

Fashion brand, Emperor Moth, has created an immersive shop interior in Mayfair, London, to bring its products to life. This new and fresh store concept invites customers to visit a world of constructivist patterns and dynamic emotions. Emperor Moth’s exceptional use of vivid colour, combined with mirrors, compliments the garments. In effect, the clothes become part of the graphics, the wallpaper, and the skin that surrounds the space making for an experiential store.

5.0 Generates essential exposure

whether you’re an industry favourite or next gen newcomer, there will always be room for growth and to do that, it is
essential that a brand increases their exposure, which will not only reaffirm a brand with its customers but expand its audience to demographics which the brand may not have reached before.

Last year, online athleisure giant, Gymshark, took the plunge
into bricks-and-mortar retail to take the step towards a more omnichannel retailer. It was a bold move for the brand but with
having such success online, the founder, Ben Francis, felt it was the necessary step for further growth of the brand, especially being in such an iconic location – Regent Street.