Brick-and-mortar retail, we’re happy to say, is far from dead. Indeed, in-store shopping remains a mainstay, with 87 percent of US retail customers still buying in the store, according to Forrester Research.

The nature of that in‑store shopping experience, however, is changing dramatically. Today’s brands are competing more on customer experience than any other element of company, product, or solution portfolio. The result? Succeeding in this market reality requires new strategies for creating an exceptional in‑store experience.

To shine a light on these strategies, Engageware and Future Stores/WBR Insights recently hosted “Creating a Meaningful In-Store Experience,” a webinar that examined what top retailers are doing to attract new customers and delight existing ones.

Featured on the webinar was Brent Torre, who leads Engageware’s platform and product strategy efforts, along with Karilyn Anderson, AVP of Digital Marketing, CRM and Loyalty at NYX Professional Makeup (part of the L’Oréal Group).

The highlights below summarize the market dynamics driving the experiential marketing boom, as well as some of the successful strategies discussed by Brent and Karilyn.

Using Brick-and-Mortar Assets to Differentiate from Digital

There’s been a shift from buying products to building relationships, and “my relationship with a brand,” is now a common topic. The way people buy has also changed. Consumers have new expectations, and they want outcomes – i.e., new solutions to stubborn problems, not just more purchases for the sake of ownership.

Add to that the on‑demand economy, which provides instant access to near infinite options, and brands face a new challenge: how to get front and center whenever a customer’s interest is piqued, or they’re in a moment of need?

Scoring with Events & Classes

Successful organizations are investing in these experiences and engaging customers in fun, playful ways to help them learn more about their products and the desired outcomes. Engageware research shows that consumers want and even expect these experiences, with 74 percent of consumers saying they’re more likely to buy a product when they’re engaged in either a personal appointment, event or class that features the product. And 65 percent of these consumers say that they have a better understanding of a product or service because of those events, which has an impact on both customer satisfaction and their propensity to return a product.

Riding the Millennial Wave

In 2018, Millennials will represent $200 billion in spending power, and this generation prefers experiences over material things. In fact, 72 percent would prefer to spend money on an experience than on a product. So, what better way to reach this audience than by offering experiences that feature your products and services?

Millennial women, meanwhile, represent 85 percent of that generational spending volume, totaling $175 billion of buying power. When surveyed, more than half of these women say that experiences will drive their biggest purchases in the next 12 months.

Technology is the Key to Driving Business Results

While most retailers are increasing their investments in experiential programs, to fully embrace this change they need technology to deploy it across their full store network,
and ensure brand integrity throughout the process.

Most brand’s digital marketing teams are simply too small to execute these programs at-scale. That’s why retailers from all segments are using intelligent appointment scheduling software to help them fully embrace and execute these engagement programs across their store networks.

And brands are seeing real results with these programs, including a 25-30 percent uptick in sales of the products featured in these appointments, events, or classes, as well as increased store traffic, and a reduced rate of returns and exchanges.

The Engageware Effect

Holding an event seems easy, but there are challenges in operating an experiential retail program at scale. This is where technology like Engageware’s can help brands manage centrally, yet execute locally – all while ensuring the highest quality brand support. Our top tips for staging a successful events and classes program:

  1. Make sure your event promotions are omnichannel – social, web, digital, e-commerce, email – your experiential offers should follow your customers wherever they want to engage with your brand.
  2. Personalize the event communications as well as the follow-up – to successfully monetize an experiential marketing program, timely and personalized messaging is key, both pre- and post-event. A good pre-event cadence helps manage customer expectations and can help drive attendance, while post-event communications containing additional resources or access to 1:1 experts to continue the learning can incentivize additional sales.

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