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Why experiential marketing is a winner for high street retailers

By Jacquie Boyd-Coleman

If there’s something that sets my favourite high street retailers apart, it’s experiential marketing.

I love stores where you feel special and part of something exclusive. This is what keeps customers coming back – in store and online.

Even though I work at an integrated communications and PR agency and understand what the likes of Hotel Chocolat, Molton Brown and Jo Malone are doing to me, I’m too busy enjoying myself – and reaching for my purse – to care!

Experiential marketing is something we’ve had great success with for clients over the years, with in-store events and pop-ups. What my favourite brands do, is make it part of everyday shopping.

It works beautifully. You’re wandering along and you see the shop – looking clean, crisp and exclusive – and think, “I’ll just nip in for a quick look.” But someone comes up to speak to you and you already love the brand so you strike up a conversation. That’s when they give you something extra.

Hotel Chocolat is all about that tempting treat – you go in and you’re offered a sample. Just being given that chocolate can make your day in a small way. Before you know it, you’ve spent more money than you were intending to and you’re leaving with a box of the chocolates you sampled. It’s a really simple retail marketing technique, yet it works so well.

You see a similar experiential marketing approach in Molton Brown. You walk in, somebody offers you a hand massage and 15 minutes later, you’re so relaxed and consumed by the scent of the product, you’re walking out with hand wash you didn’t realise you wanted. And you feel great about it.

Some of the luxury brands take that added value a step further. One of the things I love about Jo Malone is the way that staff wrap your purchases in tissue paper that they’ve sprayed with their signature scent. Everywhere you go, you take the smell of Jo Malone with you – it’s a constant reminder of the brand.

These brands give you real retail therapy – 15 minutes of “me time” to spoil yourself, with the added value that it’s free and the experience is always rewarding. You feel happy to part with your cash at the end of it, and that you’ve become part of an exclusive club.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers

You can’t get that experience online. Bricks-and-mortar retailers come into their own because of what brilliant staff can do for customers on the shop floor, which you can’t replicate online. There’s that bit of luxury, that little something extra and it costs them practically nothing but leaves the customer surprised and delighted.

That’s what high street retailers need to do in the age of online retail – give shoppers more than a product. The high street is in decline because of the bargains the internet supplies but I firmly believe bricks-and-mortar stores are here to stay because they deliver the vicarious thrill buying from eBay just can’t.

The thing is, everyone has an online outlet these days as well and what makes you want to buy from them is that you always think back to that nice in-store experience. The luxury bricks-and-mortar experience translates into online sales.

That’s not to say all online retailers are the same. Some of them literally deliver on experiential shopping. The online florist Bloom & Wild is a particular favourite of mine because of this – each delivery is its own retail marketing exercise because it has such a wow factor.

Now, you can order flowers online from a host of companies. What sets Bloom & Wild apart is that they literally post them through your letterbox. But it’s not like Amazon, where the bashed box turns up with your purchase bundled inside.

Nope, your flowers are beautifully protected inside individual sleeves. There are instructions for how to arrange them – it’s almost like a beautiful, floral Lego set. It’s all about the experience, the novelty, from the moment you open the box to the moment you have them on display in a vase.

Experiencing a brand

You can’t underestimate the value of physically experiencing a brand and something our marketing and PR agency does a lot with the retailers we work with – whether high street or online – is develop in-store experiential marketing campaigns and pop-ups.

What these do is give shoppers added value as they taste and try a brand. If you’re purely operating online, now is the time to think about one of these pop-up events so your customers can see, feel and touch your brand, so they can get to know it and love it in real life rather than as a picture on a screen.

It’s one of the best marketing opportunities to show off what makes you extra-special and what sets you apart, to invite people to love what you do. If your retail marketing makes your customers feel extra-special, they’re on their way to falling for you.

To find out how we push the boundaries of PR, marketing, digital and web design to get the best for our clients, call us now on 0800 612 9890.