By Camilla Felstead, Client Services Director (London)
The retail industry is continuing to evolve at an incredible pace. Innovative technologies are being applied, millennials are demanding “faster fashion” and consumers now want a shopping experience that includes entertainment, engagement and enlightenment. With intense competition on the high street and online, retailers are continually searching for ways to cut through the clutter.
The power of experiential
Like all brands, the trick for retailers is connecting with people on an emotional level and fully immersing them in the excitement of the experience. With the improvement in digital technology and the continued popularity of pop-up shops, it has never been easier to bring the experience to the consumer at any time.
Whether it be through a partnership or through a memorable event, retailers must build closer bonds with consumers and provide them with an experience that will set them aside from their competitors. If the experience evokes positive emotions with the consumer and makes them feel special, they are far more likely to associate those emotions with the retailer in the future and become a loyal customer.
Cross-brand collaborations remain ever popular with brands looking to leverage and share brand equity. Wearable tech is clearly having a moment with brands such as Beats by Dre successfully collaborating with musicians and sporting stars, Rapha has collaborated with Bang & Olufsen and Nike has applied Apple technology to their products. Collaborations are also being used to provide in-store experiences, Topshop and Olympus has partnered to host photography workshops in-store for example.
Retailers themselves have long been tapping into the benefits of collaborations. The Nike x Liberty collaboration being one standout example with their exclusive collections now selling out within days of release. These collaborations are particularly prevalent on the high street where retailers such as H&M and Topshop continue to use partnerships to maintain consumer’s attention by bringing usually inaccessible designer-ware to the masses. Later this month, Kendall and Kylie Jenner will be releasing their first capsule collection at Topshop in a move that extends their fashion cache into a brand. While it’s not a new thing, the fact they are becoming more and more popular shows these types of partnerships are a worthy way of maintaining cut-through in the sector, generating buzz and creating fresh content.
Of course, the most successful collaborations are those that have a unified vision, are innovative and have the customer at the heart of all decisions.
Shopping mall own events
The role of the shopping mall is also evolving. It is no longer enough for mall owners to rely on retailers and restaurants to pull in the punters, they are having to come up with innovative ways of encouraging shoppers back. Westfield launched their ‘Westfield Presents’ entertainment programme in 2013 and it’s still going strong today with six stages filled with the best upcoming artists in music and dance on a weekly basis.
This is also a common trend around the country with other shopping centres running equally successful engagement campaigns. For example, Golden Square shopping centre in Warrington ran a series of events branded the GS Collection which featured 21 retailers in a giant catwalk. The events ran throughout 2014 and successfully increased footfall and year-on-year sales.
Sports properties can also provide the perfect platform for retailers to engage consumers. With most retailers operating on a national level, sports partnerships are often formed with national teams, leagues or major events, making them inclusive and accessible across the country.
Aldi (British Olympic Association), Marks and Spencer (The FA) and Waitrose (ECB) have all benefited from the association with the respective national teams, whilst John Lewis (London 2012, Commonwealth Games 2014) and Sainsbury’s (2012 Paralympic Games) reaped the rewards of partnering with three of the biggest sporting events to be held in the UK in recent years.
The beauty of sport is that it allows a brand to build relationships with consumers and differentiate from normal ATL marketing. The brand equity that sponsorships create allow the retailer to change the attitude of fans and not just raise their brand awareness.
Because national brands are available in every city, online and on any device, the new stars will be the retailers that become a destination and offer a social experience which is pleasurable and entertaining. Experiential marketing can really help to innovate and disrupt the ever evolving retail space if the brand is brought to life and makes a connection with consumers on an emotional level.
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