Also know as known as retailtainment, experiential retailing is the merging of retail and entertainment to create experiences within the retail environment, thereby encouraging footfall to a bricks and mortar outlet

Although it is the buzzword of the moment for retailing, it’s not a new concept and retailers have long been using activities, such as toys or mini play centres, to keep kids entertained while their parents shopped.

Experiential retailing allows customers to immerse themselves in the culture of the brand, it nurtures brand loyalty and takes purchasing a product beyond being all about the price. Click To Tweet

This concept has continued to develop until it is now hailed as the magic bullet for high-street retailers struggling to survive the online retail tsunami – but what does it entail?

The spring of 2018 saw the demise of the retail giant Toys R Us. Founded in 1957, at its peak the chain had operated around 800 outlets in the US, and 800 outside it, and – as well as the company’s much-loved mascot Geoffrey – shoppers may remember the retail experience as amounting to interminable aisles of toys.

But in July 2019 the announcement came that Toys R Us was to be reborn. The brand has joined forces with retail and tech company b8ta to embrace experiential retail.

The new stores will be much smaller than the old ones and offer interactive hands-on play experiences from featured brand partners like Nintendo, Hasbro and Lego Group, as well as physical play areas such as a Geoffrey’s Tree House and the Play-A-Round Theatre.

By the end of 2020 it intends to have around 10 such stores, where it is hoped that children will have the chance to explore new interests and learn new skills, and if they happen to discover a new toy in the process, so much the better.

Experiential retail involves transforming an outlet into a ‘destination’ by delivering-out-of-the-box experiences, with cutting-edge technology such as larger-than-life screens, and the latest VR and AR systems.

An example of this is the new Adidas London flagship store, which has over 100 digital ‘touch points’ that create an immersive environment. Visitors can customise new purchases and Adidas products that they already own, take part in interactive challenges, use interactive changing rooms to request different sizes and colours without leaving the space, and use a ‘Running Lab’ to test out running shoes on an in-house treadmill.

Increasingly, it pays to have photo opps such as selfie booths and Instagrammable backdrops to share on social media. An example of this is the pre-Christmas life-size snow globe at Selfridges where families could have their pictures taken, or at the other end of the scale, the recently opened Boots concept store in Covent Garden, which has a YouTube beauty studio for video makeovers, and an Instagram zone.

In all of this, it’s the fun factor that would appear to be the vital ingredient, and fun’s not just for children. The Virgin Holidays travel store in Milton Keynes has a spa, a complimentary bar serving prosecco, Upper Class and Business Class seating for customers to try out, and even a VR rollercoaster.

So why does all this matter?

Experiential retail allows customers to immerse themselves in the culture of the brand, it nurtures brand loyalty and generates repeat visits. And most of all it takes purchasing a product beyond being all about the price.

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