Today, the world is at the consumers’ fingertips. Almost everything they want or need takes only a few clicks of a mouse for home delivery. Online shopping has become a revolutionary force, reshaping the world of retail as we once knew it. However, as the vast majority of shoppers will still visit stores, brick and mortar locations still fill a need. Consumers long for experiences. They crave branded environments and well-executed personal interaction well beyond what can be found in an e-commerce transaction.
With more and more consumers choosing to have products delivered to their front door, traditional brick and mortar retailers are looking for new and innovative ways to lure shoppers back into their stores and retain their relevancy in the marketplace. With 91.5% of retail sales still taking place in physical stores, brick and mortar will continue to be relevant to business and retail strategy. But with this change in purpose, brands of today must reconsider the role and experience of their physical environments – be it store, restaurant, hotel, or other – if they wish to be successful tomorrow.
Reimagining the store
One solution retailers have discovered is a new emphasis on experiential marketing. With increasing investment in immersive environments, stores and restaurants are reimagining their locations. A reimagined store experience is one that not only aims to increase store traffic and sales but plays a huge role in brand engagement, e-commerce, marketing, sales promotion and customer retention. A reimagined store transforms a space focused solely on transactions into one that stands as an experiential destination. As brands aim to engage customers across multiple channels and devices, those who are able to physically create customer-centric destinations and infuse them with digital elements create purpose-driven stores.
Purpose is what resonates with customers. They don’t necessarily think about separate channels. They recognise the entirety of their experience with a brand, be it in a store, on the phone, or through an app. And as the lines between physical and digital continue to blur, all touchpoints should be considered as either a storefront or the entryway into one that needs to be activated.
When brands “activate” a space, they add purpose. Activated space is curated with intention and brought to life not only with products but with music, video and interactive components that along with empowered employees, collectively shapes perception and adds value to the experience. It communicates an understanding of the brand itself and what it means to customers and provides a reason to come through the door.
Music, in a multitude of profound and diverse ways, is a powerful tool. With its ability to recall cherished memories or vividly present a vision of the future, music is like a time machine – giving the listener a true sense of time and place, with the additional capability of stirring powerful feelings. Holiday music can be especially compelling in this regard. Classic songs can invoke nostalgia for seasons past by inspiring reflection, while contemporary renditions of holiday standards can provide a fresh take and the chance to engender new memories and traditions. It’s difficult to think of a more effective way for a brand to simultaneously transform their physical space and emotionally connect with their consumers. In other words, the “right music” can have a monumental effect on the success of a business by differentiating and strengthening their experiential value.
But beyond song and artist selection, there are other important considerations to keep in mind; namely sound quality and volume. The most skillfully crafted and brand-focused playlist in the world will have little impact if it’s broadcast over a low-quality sound system. Moreover, music that is too loud can inhibit conversations and drive customers away – weakening or damaging the effectiveness and purpose of the music. Audio delivery is even more important during the holiday season because Christmas music (loved by some, avoided by others) can be a polarizing force – especially at high volumes or broadcast over an insufficient sound system. A brand may also consider adding holiday music as only a percentage of their playlist. This may ease any sort of unfavourable impact, but still provide the opportunity for the desired outcome. Much like an ingredient in a recipe, too much, too little or low quality will have a negative effect on the overall taste of the entrée.
Reimagined stores in action
Successful brands like NYX Cosmetics, UNIQLO and Adidas continuously work to challenge customer expectations and compete in a digital world through their physical locations. They recognise the importance of the store as a marketing vehicle, not just as a transactional one, and invest in the creation of activated spaces. This approach manifests itself into customer-centric store designs filled with content, interactivity and personalisation to support the presentation of product and connect with each visitor.
UNIQLO approached PlayNetwork with a desire to create a unique destination experience that synchronized infrastructure and experience for the launch of their three-story, 90,000-square-foot, North America retail flagship store in New York City. PlayNetwork’s Systems Advantage team tackled the intricate project by managing internal and external teams to engineer a one-of-a-kind audio/video solution. The massive scope encompasses 300 video screens, 45 1’×4′ video walls, four 4’×4′ video walls, custom-designed and built video mounts, 175 speakers including “hidden” speakers integrated within the store’s environment, and over 8,000 feet of cabling.
The impact at UNIQLO is immediate and consistent throughout the store with innovative, custom LED video installations at the storefront windows and glass elevators. Atop the escalators, shoppers are funnelled down an LED “tunnel ticker” display, developed by PlayNetwork, wooing customers with the latest UNIQLO merchandise.