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Amplify CustomerExperience WithRetailtainment

Consumers care for their stores, but they’re also eager to experience new situations. They no longer want to waste time while shopping: going to the store to buy things is great, but having a good time while you’re at it is even better. Estelle Mège, head of Architecture Retail at W&Cie, shares her vision of an “augmented retail”, both hybrid, digital, and personalized.

How to stand out in the midst of an increased competition? How to capture these consumers’ attention when they are hyper informed, hyper connected, and used to a smooth, quick, and simple online shopping experience on websites banking on customer service? What can be implemented to get them to come (back) in stores and jump-start physical sales? In this current era driven by hyper experience, retail needs to permanently gather momentum and meet a major challenge: going beyond a simple transactional relationship and offering a new experience to its consumers.

“The pandemic has profoundly upset the way people feel about physical stores,” explains Estelle Mège. “And two takeaways have now come out of it. First, consumers have never cared more about physical stores. After having their movements restricted during the pandemic, they made the most of life going back to normal and flooded back these places. But they’re no longer satisfied by a simple purchase. Consumers’ expectations now go beyond pure transactional value.” Used to impeccable customer service online, they set the same standard for the real world, expecting to enjoy themselves and be surprised while having a seamless experience. This phenomenon mostly applies to young people who no longer want to waste time shopping. Two out of three of them clearly express their wish to experience a rewarding or interesting moment in store.

With Retailtainment, Shopping Becomes Pleasing

A product in and of itself is no longer enough. To get consumers to the stores, they need to offer more. The store’s design and atmosphere, its vibe, and the values of the brand it carries can in turn trigger a new purchase. So the question is, what type of experience should they offer? Major brands are competing to set up the most creative pop-ups and corners, sometimes with a spectacular flair. But it’s affecting all retailers, and more and more of them are adopting the retailtainment trend. Coined from the contraction of the terms retail and entertainment, this concept refers to physical stores offering an innovative and recreational customer experience based on enjoyment, leisure, and fun while they make their purchase.

A Customer Experience World Beyond a Simple Purchase

“It’s an interesting notion, but with the current increase in prices and decrease in purchasing power, this terminology might seem tactless. We’re more prone to leaning towards sobriety rather than excessiveness these days,” adds Estelle Mège. “I favor the term augmented retail, broader and more inclusive.” Retail is now linked to hyper experience, but it can also be “amplified and enlivened” in ways that are not recreational. Physical stores can become full-blown cultural or communal destinations. According to Estelle Mège, augmented retail encapsulates several trends and prerequisites: digital integration, personalization, hybridization and quality of services.

Digitally Augmented Retail

In stores digital integration is without a doubt one of the best levers to make shopping less strenuous: avoid waiting in line, order a product that’s not available in a couple clicks and get it delivered, dematerialize payments… “It’s an effective way to get rid of pain points. It’s more convenient and fulfilling for customers. At Décathlon for instance, they offered an immersion to try out Quechua tents using virtual reality glasses in some stores. It’s not entertainment per se, but it’s still pleasant. A perfect example of the idea of phygital – a mix of physical and digital – where you get the best of both worlds.”

Engagement and Retention: “Products that are Truly Mine…”

Customization has long since entered the luxury market, and is now winning over retail. Ray Ban, Levi’s and Converse have been offering their clients to personalize their items for a while. “It’s also possible at Kiabi where some stores are equipped with machines that can print or embroider.” In this new perspective, why not multiply the services offered in physical stores? “Combining different approaches is interesting because it increases the value of the customer’s coming,” explains Estelle. I’m here to fill my basket, but I can also pick up a package; I can shop at Monoprix for a few items and get a coffee at a Starbucks located in between two aisles; at Urban Outfitters, I can get a haircut at the barber’s or attend a concert… “Combining physical stores and living spaces makes for a pleasing and seamless experience, dispelling a sense of obligation and building customers’ loyalty. It’s a win-win situation.”

Hybridation: the New Holy Grail

Offering catering options on the premises is more and more on demand. “In the US, that’s what we call a grocerant, for grocery + restaurant, another clever contraction!” This phenomenon, already in place when it comes to physical stores keeps on expanding. The rise of Americanized food courts in French and European shopping centers is proof enough. “By offering living spaces on the premises, we’re inspiring consumers to have a seat, chat, work… We’re making it possible for them to stay a while longer in enjoyable conditions! It definitely drives up traffic and engagement. And catering is an extremely powerful lever of attraction.”

No Service, No Business

All these examples lead towards the same goal: offering an experience beyond a simple purchase thanks to various quality services such as impeccable service, shorter wait time, fast delivery, personalized advice… “The ‘No parking, no business’ era is truly over. Now we’re talking about ‘No service, no business’!” La Poste is leveraging this approach of customer experience based on service. You go there to pick up registered mail, but also to buy a phone card, to rent a meeting room, and as of recently, to try on the clothes from the package you just received. A true local augmented service.

Retailtainment is a true turning point for retailers, as beyond the experience they offer lies a real asset for business. “Augmented retail is a new way of living your trips to the store. It’s still shopping, but you’re also having a great time!”