The mechanics of experiential retail
Ossified in the glass cabinets of the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill, London, the story of over 200 years of consumer culture takes the shape of haggard Heinz tins and faded Cadbury's wrappers. Yet amidst the assembly of nostalgia, deeper sentiments are brought to life. Despite varying iterations, the mechanisms that define brand engagement have long been anchored in customer experience. This week, the museum’s collaboration with brand experience agency, Bright, told of just how far the customer experience must venture to flourish in an oversaturated market.
Using a host of contemporary examples, the event explored the realm of modern engagement with the retail space, citing how many brands are championing a new definition of ‘experience.’ Hosted by Iain Swan, director of strategy at Bright, key examples such as Charlotte Tilbury in the cosmetics space, and Loaf sofas illustrate the new dimensions available to the customer. From physical spaces to engaging the senses, the importance of reengaging a core product offering must incorporate the fact that customers are human, and everchanging.
“People want experiences, and are spending more on things to do rather than things to have. This is an experiential era, and there is a sense of happening, something much more visceral. It’s an expectation within the retail space to move beyond the transactional. At Bright we spend a long time curating what we think a brand experience should be. The creation of an experience isn’t that it just happens – it’s cyclical, from touchpoint to touchpoint. It’s important when someone interacts with your brand that they know exactly what the distinctive, unique element of your offering is,” says Swan.
Yet unlike the bulk of products within the museum, today’s product offering is changing. Reusability, interchangeability and multiplicity have all become the unique selling point of many brands, and with regards to sales, the product itself no longer does all the talking. For Bright, working with established vacuum makers, Dyson, transforming the retail journey was not without challenges. Raising awareness to Dyson’s ‘Cinetic’ technology gave Bright the opportunity to re-establish the parameters of retail engagement. Through impactful display, a trial area and games section, the retail space was reimagined.
Extending this to a wider audience however, is a much greater challenge. For Swan, communication through interactivity is one of the key methods in amplifying an experience. Yet the challenge of remaining authentic is one to be weary of. Crossing over into the realm of pastiche is easily done and poses several risks, but it may prove that many of them are worth taking.