A report by Statista stated that despite the current pandemic state, between June and July this year the US retail sales witnessed an increase of 1.2% out of which the clothing and clothing accessory segment amounted for an increase of 5.7%; a promising recovery from the decline in sales during the February-April period. The same consumer behaviour has been visible in Toronto where fashion enthusiasts lined up outside Zara, Dior, and Louis Vuitton stores to walk back home with a smile on their face and hands full of shopping bags. Apparel giants such as Macy’s and Kohl’s have also confirmed a sales rebound in the post-pandemic era. While experts predicted that shoppers may permanently move to online shopping, consumers are finding their way back to brick & mortar retail stores.
The health, social, psychological and more importantly economic impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has made it tough for many industries to survive. A silver lining has appeared for retailers especially in the fashion, sports apparel and lifestyle segment. Specifically those brands who reinvent themselves and re-engage with consumers. Sports retail brands are integrating digital experiences and interactive technology in their store designs to provide consumers with more immersive experiences. For example consumers can try a variety of cross training footwear in virtual jogger parks, basketball courts and soccer fields; surrounded by action cameras and body sensors which track and display both body movements and activity, allowing consumers to select footwear that best fit their needs and desires. In Japan, Adidas recently opened one of their largest flagship stores in Tokyo showcasing an immersive design with high-end projection mapping technology. Levi’s US has made this journey back to retail stores engaging with DIY sessions, online contests and social media extension – strengthening their digital path to purchase and building brand loyalty. Millennials had opened their arms to interactive experiences long before this pandemic forced shoppers to stay home.
Immersive experiences powered by artificial intelligence and virtual reality were gaining acceptance and appreciation. But is it the technology that has been steering this wagon? No, it is the experience. One thing that every millennial and Gen Z shopper is short of is ‘time’. With busy lives, a short attention span and shopping being only a few clicks and tap of the digital wallet away; the modern day consumer craves meaningful experiences that are worth their time. From a consumer psychology standpoint this relates directly to the ‘motivation’ that drives a purchase decision and ultimately flourishes into brand advocacy. For a shopper time spent is equivalent to experience earned which ultimately decides the ‘value’ they assign a particular brand. For retailers, the recipe for success is simple – The more value you create, more revenue you drive. In the wake of this pandemic, this urge to indulge in meaningful experiences is now fuelling diversity in consumer sentiments. More and more consumers across all facets of retail are now finding these experiences a source of happiness, confidence and empowerment.
Now that the desire for convenience and safety has driven consumers online more than ever, mobile integration is the key all brands need to have in their go-to-market strategy. Conversion and awareness oriented campaigns enabled by local targeting will help brands engage consumers in physical stores. Retail giants such as Best Buy and Marc Jacobs are engaging shoppers who rely on their smartphones and social media to scout information on everything available within their geographical vicinity. Luxury brands are moving a step ahead by zooming in to create a ‘single customer view’ by collecting extensive shopper data across digital and physical touchpoints. Gen Z consumers are being captured through creativity and technologies such as guest experience platforms, loyalty programs and AI-powered brand experiences. The path-to-purchase now begins on smartphones and leads consumers to in-store immersive experiences. The new “brand experience playbook” is now thoroughly integrated.
This has not only increased the importance of integrated brand experiences, but has also led to the rise of Experiential Retail. 65% consumers are now willing to share more data in return of a personalized and immersive brand experience (Accenture survey). More than the money in consumers’ pockets, retailers are now competing to gain their time and attention on both smartphones and at physical brick & mortar stores. Therefore, retailers are now using the art of storytelling to encourage more active consumer participation and to enhance the consumer-brand connection – the two important facets of the experience economy, a phenomenon which first surfaced in the late 90s and now has replaced the old agrarian economy. For marketers, this means focussing on creating enough brand moments to build strong brand affinity, so that the consumers become less of a revenue stream and more of a brand advocate. As the Harvard Business Review has defined the experience economy —”a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event.” As more shoppers return to retail every day, retailers are creating personalized brand stories that are not only removing the retail friction but are also helping brands connect to consumers emotionally.
The Digital Experience teams at iGotcha are empowering brands with technology powered experiences that allow them to connect with consumers’ throughout their shopping journey. While 52% North American shoppers say they are now more likely to buy online, this has also created a golden opportunity for retailers to navigate through this new normal by using the power of experiential retail to build a bridge that will connect brick & mortar stores to consumers sentiments. Accomplishing this will require narration of an aspirational brand story and integration of digital experiences throughout all stages of a consumer’s retail brand journey. The key to successfully and safely delivering integrated brand experiences in the post-pandemic world lies in the skillful and strategic use of creativity and technology to – Connect. Captivate. Convert.
If you are working your way through the post-pandemic to reinvent your brand, Let’s connect and together build memorable brand experiences.
iGotcha Media is a digital interactive studio specialized in building memorable screen-based customer experiences. Solutions include screens, interactive kiosks, video walls, RFID technology, audience-measurement technology, wayfinding and payment solutions and in-store audio. We help our clients creatively communicate their value propositions. With offices in Montreal and Toronto, iGotcha Media's clients include Birks, Browns Shoes, Cirque du Soleil, Groupe Touchette, Loto-Québec, National Bank of Canada, Nissan Canada, Reebok, Rona, Toronto Congress Centre and VIA Rail Canada.