Experiential Retailing: Can it Help Offline Stores?

The growth of online shopping has led many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to create and emphasize unique in-store shopping activities and experiences as a way to compete with online retailers. This is known as experiential retailing, and the idea behind this trend is that the one thing online retailers can’t offer is the in-store experience. Therefore, if offline stores can develop truly interesting, entertaining, and/or one-of-a-kind shopping activities/experiences, that would be one way to effectively compete.

There are a number of examples of companies engaging in experiential retailing. For instance, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World superstores feature a number of attractions that make each store a unique destination, such as indoor waterfalls, gigantic aquariums, archery ranges, and ponds with fish native to the store’s area. In addition, the stores hold a number of demonstrations and workshops that teach customers a variety of skills related to outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, and water safety. Another outdoor recreation company, REI offers climbing walls at some of its stores, for patrons to try out and practice their rock climbing skills. In addition, Dick’s Sporting Goods offers a golf simulator for shoppers to try out any of their golf clubs on a number of virtual holes before purchasing them. On the simulator, the customer hits an actual golf ball and then a large projection screen shows the flight of the ball through the air, as well as where it lands. In addition to displaying this, the simulator also provides a number of useful metrics, such as ball distance, speed, launch angle, and spin, to further help customers decide if the club they’re using is the right one for them. 

Sporting goods and outdoor oriented stores aren’t the only ones engaging in experiential retailing. Many other brick-and-mortar retailers are starting to use technology to create a personalized shopping experience for customers. For example, many companies such as Target offer mobile apps that allow shoppers to see if an item is available at a particular store, and if so tell them the exact location of that item within that store. In addition, other retailers including Timberland, are beginning to employ the use of augmented reality systems in their offline stores, to allow customers to virtually try on clothing and accessories, as well as instantly mix and match various combinations of shirts, pants, shoes, etc. www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TZmQPdhpak.  Neiman Marcus has also developed the “Memory Mirror” shopping assistant, which allows shoppers trying on various items to view them on a large video screen from any angle, as well as instantly change an items color, or see the way different outfits look in side-by-side comparisons: www.youtube.com/watch?v=B97k394jetk

Since many of these retailers’ items can be purchased online, companies are hoping that by offering these extra experiences, it will encourage consumers to go and shop at their physical stores. Obviously online shopping is here to stay and will most likely continue to keep growing well into the future. However, experiential retailing does show promise in helping offline retailers to still have a relevant place in consumers’ shopping habits.

What do you think of experiential retailing? Do you think it’s a viable technique for allowing offline stores to better compete with online shopping? Are there any other examples of experiential retailing that you’ve recently seen in action? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image source: Tim Nichols (2014) – “Experiential Marketing on The High Street” (ExactDrive™).

John Gironda, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. His teaching and research interests include digital and social media marketing, consumer behavior, marketing strategy, advertising, personal selling, and sales management. He can be reached at: jgironda@nova.edu

Magical Marketing - Houdini's Tricks for Entrepreneurial Success

Harry Houdini, born Ehrich Weiss in 1874, dazzled American and European audiences with spectacular magic and illusion feats until his death on Halloween, 1926. Adapting his name from his hero, J. E. Robert-Houdin, a French magician, Houdini quickly established himself as the top entertainer in the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While everyone knows about his marvels as a legendary magician and escape artist, few know that much of his success was due to superb marketing.

Here are five marketing lessons learned from Houdini that you can apply to your entrepreneurial venture (and you don't need to wear a strait-jacket or be handcuffed to pull off this marketing magic).

1. Always be prepared!   Houdini always had a plan and was very resourceful. He was ready for any physical or mental challenge. While Houdini clearly took chances, he believed in managing risk. He used his superior intellect to conduct research and obtain knowledge of all situations and always had the right tools to get the job done. It was not uncommon for Houdini to spend up to 10 hours a day practicing challenging escapes.

2. Leap-frog the competition. Houdini constantly studied the market and prepared for imitators and new competitors. He dissected strategies used by his rivals and never let his competitors know what he would do next. He read every book that was published on magic acquiring a personal library of more than 5,000 volumes on the subject. While rivals were content to break out of handcuffs, Houdini did this while suspended upside down from skyscrapers, on top of bridges or immersed in water.

3. Fine-tune your positioning strategy. Houdini understood the sheer power of a brand name a century before this became all the rage in marketing. Quality was at the heart of his value proposition, always exceeding customers' expectations in his live performances. He knew that perception was reality and had every detail worked out in advance to provide a superior customer experience. While other magicians made rabbits disappear, Houdini vanished a full-grown elephant in plain sight. To extend his brand, Houdini went global and conquered Europe, as well as America.

4. Build a world-class product. Houdini carefully guarded his trade secrets and invested in his product. He diversified to build his product line and product mix. An advocate of the kaizen approach (continuous improvement), Houdini regularly sought incredible new offerings while enhancing his existing repertoire of tried and true stunts. His three minute water torture escape from a steel-encased cabinet was world renowned. This was one of his several signature acts that could not be replicated.

5. Be creative and never stop promoting. Houdini was the consummate sales pro as well as the master showman and publicist. He stimulated word-of-mouth promotion in every city he visited by promising unimaginable events that he later successfully executed.  Houdini often dropped in on local police stations during the day in the cities he was visiting and challenged them to keep him from escaping their most secure chains/restraints, handcuffs, jail cells, or locks (his arsenal of four hidden keys/picks always got the job done). The publicity gained from these teaser appearances drew huge interest to his evening shows. The word spread nationally and internationally in an era that had no television or internet!

Suggested reading: Cannell, J.C. (1989), The Secrets of Houdini, NY: Bell Publishing Company.

Art Weinstein, Ph.D., is Chair and Professor of Marketing at the Huizenga School. His research interests are customer value, market segmentation and entrepreneurial marketing strategies. He may be reached at art@nova.edu  

Great Ideas vs. Entrepreneurial Ideas

What do you get when you have a great idea, mixed with passion and energy?  Some might say you have an invention or inventor, but in reality you only have a great idea.  Now, add in the ability to communicate the benefits of that great idea, the reasons the idea is important to stakeholders and why the great idea is valuable enough to pay for and you have an entrepreneurial idea.

Many great ideas never make it to market because the concept is never communicated effectively to potential investors and users.  Many entrepreneurs might cringe at the word “sales,” but successful entrepreneurs must be good sales people in order to take the idea to market.  Sales skills become most important for the entrepreneur in at least three areas:

1)      when searching for funding and partners,

2)      when hiring the first set of employees, and

3)      when working with buyers and customers.

Success in changing a great idea into an entrepreneurial idea is based on very basic, but crucial non-technical skills:

1. Time-management

2. Effective communication

3. Goal setting and achievement

4. Relationship building (networking)

Passion and a sense for business are essential to bring success to your ideas, but not enough when speaking to Venture Capitalists or investors about joining your team.  The skill sets needed to successfully communicate the benefits of your idea, to both the end user and the investor, include relationship building, identifying the gaps between “what is” and “what should be” and strong communication skills. What makes these skills so essential for entrepreneurs is the concept of customizing the communication so that is resonates with each individual stakeholder.

The message you deliver must be adapted or changed to fit the needs of each person you speak with.

Whether you are a new entrepreneur just starting, or a seasoned entrepreneur finding new barriers in your way, brushing up on your sales skills could prove to be the best return on your time and money.  Your salesmanship skills can be honed by participating in sales seminars, webinars, or taking some classes at your local university.  There is even a plethora of books available at your local bookstore.

Entrepreneurial ideas are the ones that change the world, make lives easier and bring forth financial rewards. Entrepreneurs will likely discover that sales courses provide the missing piece that can make an idea go from great to entrepreneurial.

Photo Credit: Filosofias filosoficas, Wikimedia Commons.

Dena Hale, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. Professor Hale is dedicated to providing a sales curriculum and consultative services that promote genuine salesmanship and integrity. She can be reached at dh1113@nova.edu

10 Ingredients for a Successful Restaurant Concept

Thinking of launching a new restaurant concept? First piece of advice....Don't!! After three years, 60% of new restaurant companies fail. But, if you like to fight the odds and are convinced you have a winning idea, consider the advice below.

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza has successfully navigated this very competitive marketplace, and, in its 11th year, has grown to 38 stores in six states. The Brand's success has been driven by a combination of factors-here are my top 10:

1) A unique product and authenticity are critical in the ultra-competitive restaurant industry (the world is not waiting for another pizza).

2) Never compromise on quality ingredients (there are a hundred ways to cut costs and corners, and all of them lead to Brand erosion).

3) Keep it simple (a short menu supports consistent execution and compels the Brand to "stand for something" in the eyes of the customer).

4) Treat staff and customers like family (it's the impersonal practices of the big chains that create the opportunity for smaller competitors to gain traction by making that important personal connection).

5) Share the wealth (when you expect a lot from your store managers and staff, you should give a lot).

6) Keep it fun (restaurants are entertainment after all).

7) Develop leaders internally (spreading and preserving your company culture is best done by the people who created it).

8) Build infrastructure without stifling the place (there's a reason most large restaurant chains go stale).

9) Cut your losses early (don't squander valuable resources trying to salvage a mistake; learn from it and move on).

10) Start with the end in mind (plan your growth; capital, management and real estate all have to come together like a marching band not like bumper cars).

Nick Castaldo, M.B.A., is an Equity Partner, Board Member, and SVP/Chief Marketing Officer for Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza and a Lecturer in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the Huizenga Business School. He can be reached at castaldo@nova.edu More About the Author