An abundance of reports emerging within the last five years claim the growth of e-commerce websites has resulted in the demise of bricks and mortar retail stores. Locally, you only need to look at the likes of Myer and David Jones to see the merit in these arguments; legacy powerhouses of the Australian retail industry are now heard to be entering talks of mergers to survive. On top of this, we see American tech-giant Amazon entering the ring and further disrupting the traditional retail landscape, competing via convenience and price due to their frictionless business model.
Is it game over for traditional retail?
Not at all. The opportunity is there to shake things up and evolve with your customers, adjusting your business plan to accommodate their changing behaviours and desires. Chances are your target market largely comprises of Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z demographics, all of which are digital savvy and experience-hungry groups. According to a 2018 report: “72% of millennials plan to increase spending on experiences.” Strong brands are leveraging this data to employ leading BX and experiential marketing techniques within their retail spaces, shifting the focus from transaction to engagement and lasting resonance. Offering seamless shopping experiences across multiple channels, brands such as Mecca Cosmetica, Samsung and VISA are dialling up sensory tactics to surprise, delight and engage with their consumers at every touchpoint, creating powerful brand loyalty.
Angela Liang, Founder/ Director of LUSTR, recently mentioned at Melbourne Fashion Week “customers want to buy, not be sold to” and, like the best BX design – brands need to facilitate the journey utilising an omni-channel approach – digital and live experiences blended to enhance the overall CX.
Within the Brand Experience (BX) industry, in particular, we are seeing the trend of Festivalisation emerging and being utilised to breathe new life into retail stores, allowing consumers to immerse themselves within the brand story, on their terms.
I’ve selected Five Festivalisation Techniques being introduced to the Australian retail landscape to explore, effectively safeguarding the future of the industry.
- Mini Activations
Think of your favourite activations at a music festival – there’s different live-stages for performance, food trucks, market stalls and sampling zones (free henna tattoo anyone?) And of course, there’s the activations and branded experiences – e.g. the Moet Lounge or Corona Beer Garden, etc.
We are now seeing brands leverage these engaging activations within their retail spaces to connect with their consumer in an interactive and multi-sensory way. Implementing DJ booths, mini food trucks, live performers, guest speakers, and even hosting live music gigs within their stores to create impact.
Check out the “Today at Apple” campaign, which has just won a new brand experience category at Cannes Lions International Festival this year.
Mecca is a leading Australian example, often utilising their retail space to: bump-in ‘beauty skill-testers’ dispensing free products; hosting live product launches; applying free makeup applications and distributing Beauty Loop Box giveaways to loyal customers, comprising free samples to encourage product trial and repeat purchases. Mecca also launched their inaugural beauty festival this year, ‘Mecca Land’, which featured live demonstrations from prominent beauty influencers and brand activations from key suppliers and partners all under one roof. The integrated idea makes money from both the ticket sales and product purchases on the day. Consumers were given an empty showbag and encouraged to immerse themselves in each brand’s activation to collect free samples, trial (feel, see, smell and play) and purchase limited edition products.
- DIY stations
Make-it-yourself stations are no longer limited to the ‘arts & crafts’ tent at music festivals. These DIY stations are being implemented within retail stores to increase ‘dwell time’ via engagement. Allowing consumers to play, touch, learn, create (think Lego-Land), and to have the opportunity to further personalise the product offering (e.g monogrammed stationary at Kikki K or customised Nike’s). The longer consumers stop to interact and immerse themselves with your brand, the stronger the connection and lasting impression being formed, as they are more likely to trust you and want to interact with you again. Explore more: check out the Samsung Galaxy Studio, winner of the Best Multi-Market Consumer Event at the Experiential Marketing Summit 2018.
- Technology as an enabler
Within the BX industry, we are increasingly seeing technology being woven into the brand experience narrative as another touchpoint or opportunity to engage with their consumers. In fact, “98% of consumers create or capture some kind of content at events and experiences, with 100% of content then shared”. Brands are increasingly utilising BX technology to create touchpoints within their stores to capture data, content and enhance the overall consumer experience. Just this year at the Virgin Australia Fashion Festival (VAMFF), we saw VISA utilising technology to allow attendees to purchase key products straight off the catwalk, delivered to their homes that very week. This kind of festival technique of leveraging technology to capture data, drive purchase and enhance in-store experience, will become more evident over the next few years in Australia. Matt Stubbs, Founder/ Director of Abel Collective, mentioned during his panel discussion at Melbourne Fashion Week that his team are already working to include bio-tech within various retail environments, effectively allowing consumers to be scanned for measurements as they enter the store with products in their size and taste then made available to them in the changeroom.
Explore more: check out the Macallan Gallery 12 campaign, winner of Best Production of a Consumer Event at the Experiential Marketing Summit 2018.
- Share-worthy experiences
In experiential marketing, we can no longer hope our brand experiences will be shared to transcend the lifespan of an event, it simply must. The same can be said for the future of in-store experiences. They should aim to be inspirational and immersive over transaction-oriented. Create ‘insta-worthy’ moments with branded walls, photobooths and activations that consumers will want to share on their networks. Studies show that Millennials care more about being perceived to be ‘having fun’ over possessing actual material items, so ensure your in-store experience is fun, visually-appealing and easily shareable – perhaps add kiosks that make uploading their ‘branded moment’ to Instagram even easier?
Explore more: check out the Taco Bell Test Kitchen campaign, winner of Best Single-Market Consumer Event at the Experiential Marketing Summit 2018.
- Leveraging Brand Ambassadors
Imperative to modern festival strategy (think Coachella in the US), brand ambassadors play a vital role in bringing your brand story and persona to life. Within your store, your staff need to take on this role to not only service your consumers but also embody all characteristics of your brand. They should be able to communicate your brand narrative with ease and passion, encouraging the customer to feel as excited by the products as they are. We are also seeing the trend of influencer-marketing entering the retail space, with social influencers or celebrities often being employed to attend brand experiences, to be seen using branded products or live stream from within the retail store on both the brand’s social channels, as well as their own. These ambassador programs are effective when done authentically because they leverage word-of-mouth techniques to convey trust and status for the brand, encouraging exploration within their own loyal audiences. However, if the influencer seems inauthentic or too ‘sales-y’ this can have a negative impact on brand equity, so it’s important to make sure the partnership is genuine and relevant.
Explore more: check out General Mills’ campaign – Lefty’s 40th Birthday Bash, silver winner of the Best Buzz Marketing/Influencer Program at the Experiential Marketing Summit 2018.
So, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Australian retail industry and the traditional model of the bricks and mortar retail store is far from lying on its’ deathbed. While online e-commerce sites cater to the fast-paced, convenience-crazed nature of today’s society, it fails to also address our basic human desire to feel, interact and share experiences with one another. Brands that effectively leverage these festivalisation techniques within their physical stores will continue to see growth in both sales and brand loyalty or resonance. Omni-channel and BX are the future of consumer marketing and when implemented seamlessly, will strengthen the retail industry and propel stores into the future of commerce.
We touch on the importance of Omni-channel approaches to marketing in the a-z Brand Experience, access the eBook here.
Words by Bree Pogorzelski, Brand & Development, Aesthetic.
Image Source: 9to5mac.com
Statistics: cited from a-z Brand Experience, see link above.