Experiential retail refers to a retail strategy that focuses on creating immersive and memorable experiences for customers within a physical retail environment. The idea is to go beyond traditional shopping transactions and provide consumers with engaging, entertaining, or educational experiences that enhance their overall shopping journey. Experiential retail aims to build a stronger emotional connection between the brand and the customer, ultimately driving customer loyalty and differentiation in a competitive market.

The Rise of Experiential Retail

As the highstreet has evolved, experiential retail stores are replacing those that rely on a basic model of trade and transaction. This comes as customers increasingly express a preference for brands and retailers to tell a story leading up to the purchase of a product or service to enrich the customer experience. Creating a shopping journey that is filled with activity via interactive touchpoints ensures that a customer is immersed in a brand’s presence for a longer period of time, leading to customers experiencing a stronger affinity for the brand.

73% of Gen Z & Millennials value experiences over products (Savvy), suggesting that nowadays it is much more about access than it is about ownership. Our inclination to value experience over material items has given rise to experiential retail’s popularity. However, we think there is more to it than this.

Experiential Retail has been occurring for some years now, and the highstreet continues to evolve towards this retail format with experiential retail stores replacing those relying on a basic model of transaction. Whilst many experiential retail functions involve a degree of tangibility and tactility, this had to be paused during the height of the pandemic in order to protect customers, and so we have since seen a return of brands launching retail formats of this nature once again.

Why Experiential Retail?

Now more than ever, a person’s social media presence is a huge part of a person’s self hence why many brands are providing experiential experiences within retail that can contribute to a customer’s digital life, such as by implementing branded selfie areas within the shopping journey. These mutually beneficial touchpoints help consumers to create quality content for their social profiles and the brand to gain valuable exposure online.

Moreover, creating a shopping journey that is filled with activity ensures that the customer is immersed in a brand’s presence for a longer period of time. This creates a great opportunity for the brand to try to better relate to its customers, and maybe even trigger an emotional response that causes the customer to experience a strong affinity for the brand.

Benefits of Experiential Retail

  • Enhanced customer engagement.
  • Builds emotional connections.
  • Allows for differentiation among competitors.
  • Generated buzz and excitement.
  • Creates a sense of community.
  • Encourages exploration.

Design4Retail’s Approach to Experiential Retail

Etude House

Following on from the successful House of Colour Play store concept launch in 2017, ETUDE wanted to revisit the sweet and playful aesthetic of the brand’s roots with a renewed retail identity.

To appeal to today’s more digitally native customers we were asked to transform the retail store environment focusing on the experience and introducing digital content from the brand’s online world.

The client wanted a best-in-class global store concept that presents shopping as a fun, engaging, and completely omnichannel experience. We were tasked with building a playground of cosmetic retail that layers experiential and interactive elements to redefine the role of physical retail in the beauty sector. This included amplifying brand voice from digital platforms to communicate the ETUDE House story and ethos.

D4R were engaged to provide creative and strategic services to ensure the heart of the concept shone through – playful pink, personalisation, digital content, and engaging display tools to help customers discover their perfect colour products! Personalisation is offered across a multitude of products, from an interactive skin scan and foundation mixing station where your product is delivered by robot, to play tables where customers can build their own palettes.

Play, discovery, and choice are at the heart of the store activity. Our concept creates a home for customers – a house of beauty and a place for dreaming. The reinvented store concept direction returns to the classic ETUDE-owned device of the colour pink. The new store concept reinvents this and moves away from the static use of a single tone and creates a dynamic environment with a multitude of textures and shades of pink that reflect and amplify the brand’s core colour, differentiating from competitors in the landscape.

Filled with texture, innovative VM, and personalisation opportunities, the retail identity is a playground for makeup. Strong thematic zones of the product allow for total immersion in each category or product family – a hyper stylised space where narrative and brand storytelling uplift product selling. Products shine in their own display areas and each turn gives new vistas and hidden treasures to explore.


Cannabotech approached us to re-introduce CBD-based products to the UK market in a way like never before; to create a physical retail presence that would propel the brand to be a trusted voice in the world of personal well-being and elevate their CBD-based products to new heights – infusing integrative care, high-end tech and natures wonders to improve the health of consumers.

D4R were briefed to elevate CBD’s image through a brand strategy, tone of voice and customer journey that is unique and pioneering to create the most premium CBD offer in the industry. The space would require a transformative interior design scheme to remove traces of its former occupation as a fashion store so that the space felt new and exclusive to the brand. We sought to do this by reshaping the space, whilst also evolving existing store architecture to meet the needs of the brand. This would involve reintegrating the old changing rooms into the space to create room for a more private consultation experience, as well as enabling staff spaces, storage and services to be hidden from view.

An intuitive pathway for customers was defined starting with a window display that prefaces the brand, building intrigue, to a welcoming interactive moment via the ‘My Being – skin scanner’. This interactive touchpoint introduces shoppers to the brand, diagnosing and identifying products relevant to their needs. Staff stylised as ‘Botanacists’ offer expert instore advice and consultations, as well as epigenetic testing for in-depth well-being regimens.

Within the core of the space is an interactive touch sensitive table allowing customers to learn about the blend of ingredients that make up Cannabotech’s products, and enlighten themselves to the body’s endocannabinoid system, delving into the efficacy of the unique M2CBD formula. This educational and exploratory element within the store seeks to engage customers, leveraging RFID-based lift and learn technology to activate immersive content. The system also activates large overhead screens, channelling digital media and educational content into the store environment to take over the space.

The store was designed to encompass a clinical yet welcoming and trustworthy atmosphere that would appeal to all shoppers regardless of their gender. Using mushroom-inspired tone on tone, hints of green to represent the origins of CBD extract and seams of gold, a premium space is formed.

Luxurious textures add a sense of tactility to the space and translucent materials interact with the light in the store to envelop customers in a calm environment evoking precision and harmony. The punctuation of scientific digital elements alongside the use of decorative materials and forms that soften the space, helped to achieve a sense of equilibrium between the scientific and natural aspects of the brand, focusing on consumer well-being.

Mac Cosmetics

This summer Mac Cosmetics launched a conspicuous campaign in Selfridges’ trio of revered department stores: Selfridges Birmingham, Selfridges Trafford Centre, and Selfridges London. Upon launching its Botanic Panic make-up collection – “a labyrinthine garden of hyper-vibrant hues and on-trend topiary tones” – it was vital that MAC’s instore marketing campaigns were as vivid and vivacious as the products themselves.

Whilst perhaps a little more unconventional than the usual instructions we receive from our clients, d4r’s brief from MAC was simple: to promote the limited-edition product launch via a pop-up campaign that resembled ‘flowers on acid’ to really WOW shoppers! Mac wanted to provide an immersive pop-up experience where shoppers could explore its products, have consultations with MAC agents, and enjoy a selfie moment – all whilst ensuring customer safety via safety screens and social distancing.

Using MAC’s key visual, we produced a handful of hand drawn sketches that would help to decide the direction of the Botanic Panic pop-up concept. Generating 3D renders of the pop-up for all three retail sites, our 3D designers further refined the creative concept, whilst our technical designers focused on ensuring that the pop-ups were production-ready.

Of course, very few things these days are made without consideration to their impact on the environment, and with MAC’s pop-ups going into Selfridges – a retailer that has been campaigning for our planet via its Planet Earth campaign – you bet we considered the pop-up’s environmental impact in our designs. For example, we replaced typical plastic-containing artificial flowers with paper alternatives for better recyclability. This also gave the display a more intricate aesthetic and depth of detail. What’s more, staggering installation dates for the pop-ups ensured that the fixtures could be repurposed between installations and reused.

Showcasing an immersive sensory experience, this beauty pop-up brought the Botanic Panic product collection to life with a theatrical display. Orchestrated scent cues were added to the customer journey via hidden Jo Malone scented fuse beads to give customers a more sensual experience whilst the addition of a play table gave customers the opportunity to truly get to know the brand and its products. Demonstrating an appreciation for their customers’ emotions when shopping for beauty, MAC were really happy with the level of customer engagement at the pop-ups, as well as the number of shoppers who took the opportunity to take a selfie in front of the flower wall in the selfie booth

Let’s Talk

Retail is an ever-changing landscape, and there will always be host of influences giving reason for its need to continually evolve. Brands and retailers that anticipate consumer attitudes and wider industry trends, such as experiential retail, are always the most exciting as they remain at the forefront of change and lead the way for others.

If you have a vision to executive a best-in-class store or experiential retail activation that responds to the future of retail and creates hype within your respective industry and the wider retail sector, we would love to bring that vision to life…


1. What is Experiential Retail?

Experiential retail refers to a store concept that focuses on offering consumers a chance to engage with the brand beyond just purchasing products. It’s about creating memorable, immersive experiences that foster a deeper emotional connection with the brand.

2. How Experiential Retail Works

Experiential retail enhances the customer experience by offering interactive elements such as in-store events, product demonstrations, workshops, and technology-driven experiences. These elements make shopping more engaging and enjoyable, encouraging customers to spend more time in the store.

3. Who Can Benefit from Experiential Retail/Who Should Implement Experiential Retail Strategies?

Any retailer looking to create a strong brand presence and connect with customers on a deeper level should consider experiential retail strategies. This includes both large and small businesses across various sectors, from fashion and beauty to electronics and home goods.

4. What are the challenges of creating an experiential retail space?

Challenges include the costs associated with creating immersive experiences, the need for continuous innovation to keep experiences fresh, and measuring the ROI of experiential initiatives. Additionally, aligning the experiences with the brand’s core values and message is crucial.

5. How do retailers measure the success of experiential retail?

Retailers can measure success through increased foot traffic, higher sales figures, social media engagement, customer feedback, and repeat visits. Advanced analytics and CRM systems can also track the long-term impact on customer loyalty and brand perception.

6. What is the future of experiential retail?

The future of experiential retail is likely to involve more personalised experiences through data analytics, augmented reality, and AI. Sustainability and community-focused events will also play a larger role as consumers increasingly value ethical and authentic brand interactions.

7. Who benefits from experiential retail?

Both retailers and customers benefit from experiential retail; retailers can see increased sales and customer loyalty, while customers enjoy a more engaging and personalised shopping experience.

8. Why is experiential retail important?

Experiential retail is important because it transforms shopping from a simple transaction to an engaging experience, fostering brand loyalty and differentiating the brand in a competitive market.