Blog | 11 January, 2018

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Why shopping is about the become all about the experience

Shopping may be about to undergo a dramatic transformation. Within the next decade it could change into an activity driven entirely by experiences and interactive technology rather than the act of buying – with retail outlets morphing into places where customers (or should that be visitors?) try things on or test products in person but don’t actually make any purchases.

This rise in so-called ‘experiential shopping’ is in part a reaction to the growth of online shopping – in 2016 online sales grew by 15% in Europe and North America. This increasingly digital shopping experience means brands have fewer opportunities to meet their customers face-to-face, leading them to seek out new ways of reaching them.

In April, Starbucks chairman Howard Shultz told investors that any retailer who is “going to win in this new environment must become an experiential destination. Your product and services, for the most part, cannot be available online and cannot be available on Amazon.”

Take the House of Vans for example. Their venue in London is a firm favourite with fans of the footwear, yet there are no trainers on sale. Instead, visitors can enjoy a number of activities – skateboarding, playing in a ball pit or rocking out to a live DJ, to name a few. Across the pond, there’s the Museum of Ice Cream. It’s not a museum, it’s not a shop – it’s somewhere in between. Tickets to the series of ice-cream themed installations cost around $38 and have sold out in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Once inside, visitors are confronted with fun things to do rather than to buy – brightly-coloured, ice-cream themed installations such as a giant pool full of sugar sprinkles to jump into.

Shopping in the future will need to be an amalgamation of both online shopping and physical stores, where customers move seamlessly between the two. Personalised interaction with customers such as intuitive apps and immersive experiences will be fundamental to retail success.