Using Experiential Marketing to Drive Customer Engagement

Standing out from the pack when you are marketing a retail or online store has its challenges. Competitors are imitating one another with programs and promotions to drive repeat traffic. Today’s most successful companies are highly focused on unique events that get to the heart of their brand and let them shine. Simply, they care about the customer experience. Experiences are driving both trial and loyalty among many groups, especially millennials and generation z. It’s community building at its best.

Who Does Experiences Well?

A couple of months ago I heard about the unique experience London-based Sweaty Betty (which has 61 stores worldwide) is offering. With a name like that, do you know that their category is athletic apparel? At their new 3,800-square-foot store on Soho’s Carnaby Street, they not only sell athletic apparel but also provide customer services to get you sweaty in their workout studio. They also get you un-sweaty in the blow-dry bar and refueled at their cafe. All services are provided through well-known partner brands, under the same roof.
According to the Best of Fashion site, “the new concept store comes as millennial consumers are shifting spend from stuff to experience, and Sweaty Betty is not alone in working to retain that demographic by offering something beyond a retail transaction.”
This new flagship store builds on a decade of innovative events, the stores, and the Sweaty Betty Live festival with 3,500 paying attendees now in its second year. The brand plans to expand live events to other regions where it operates, appealing to this younger- adult customer.

Other Notable Examples of Experiential Marketing

Numerous other brands are introducing new events that are in keeping with their brands. Food retailers and grocers are holding food festivals and cooking for charities, including for recent storm survivors around Texas.
Outdoor gear retailers organize hiking and biking clubs and meetups to extend their brands.  The opportunity to socialize, eat and shop are natural and appeal to younger adults seeking to socialize.
Just today I read about the new trend in apartment-style boutiques. Retailers are experimenting with presenting their stores as a carefully curated home.  The sofas, books, and artwork help customers linger and shop at a less frantic pace.  Brands use the apartment store concept to create an inspirational lifestyle and connect with their customers.  It’s very similar to how Starbucks designs its stores.
Our experience is that the best stores create a calendar of events and use an e-newsletter plus in-store signage to promote upcoming experiences.  Build a sense of community and engage with your customer before and after the sale.  Give customers a reason to linger in your store or visit your website.  And remember, each location should be authentic to the brand and local community and not a copy-cat version of the other store locations.
As we like to say here in Austin:  “Keep Austin Weird” y’all!