The average consumer will spend a little more than $1,000 this holiday season, up 4.1 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. And retailers are getting more creative than ever to compete for a share of those dollars.
Earlier this month, mainstream retailers like Levi's and Nike's launched "concept" stores in New York City, focusing on customized products and immersive experiences such as dip-dying sneakers or personalizing jeans with the touch of an iPad.
"The holidays are a great time for retailers to test unique ways to lure [new shoppers] to stores, especially since [they] may be easier to come by this time of year," Alexis DeSalva, Mintel's senior retail and e-commerce analyst, said in an email. In-store experiences help brands stand out from "what is otherwise a flurry of discounts."
A 2016 study from marketing firm Freeman predicts that one-third of chief marketing officers will dedicate up to 50 percent of their budgets on experiential marketing over the next three to five years.
Need some idea inspiration? Check out four organizations that are trying to win over customers this holiday season with especially innovative offline and online experiences.
Come for the the Instagram-worthy backdrops, stay for the ice cream
The Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco, an interactive museum with its own ice cream line, launched its new holiday campaign "Pinkmas" Nov. 23. The museum, with its sprinkles-filled pools and pastel walls, is known for offering Instagram fanatics an especially photogenic experience. From now until Jan. 6, the 12,000 square foot space offers a mini escape from the holiday madness, where attendees pay $38 to wander through glowing forests and gingerbread houses and taste the museum's new "Gingerbread Disco" ice cream flavor along with sweets from MyMo Mochi, La Michoacana, and Ghirardelli. Every Thursday in December, the first 350 solo guests receive a free admission ticket.
Speaking of things you can Instagram...
Camera manufacturer Canon is launching a pop-up shop for the amateur photographer. Dubbed "Canon Portals," the pop-up will let visitors with a Canon camera visit six "vignette" rooms equipped with back drops and ball pits--each highlighting a different camera mode--and capture an Instagram-worthy photo. The pop-up shop, located in Santa Monica, will run until Dec. 16.
Filling the gap left by Toys R' Us
Fatherly, a New York-based digital site about parenting, is bringing its brand offline in the form of "The Playroom," a pop-up where families can test-drive the editors' curated picks of this year's 100 best toys. In addition to helping parents identify the "it" toys for 2018, the space is designed to let kids burn off a little energy pent up from all that holiday shopping. The company has partnered with RXBar Kids, which will supply a ball pit featuring foam versions of the ingredients from the bars. Fatherly is also partnering with toy company littleBits, which will provide the littleBits' Avengers Hero Inventor kit on-site and an app that lets kids customize their own hero identity. The room is slated to open Dec. 6 at 140 West Broadway in New York City.
An unusual shopping experience with a social cause
Creative companies are figuring out how to do experiential marketing online, too. In 2016, partially blind brothers Bradford and Bryan Manning left their careers in finance to start high-end clothing line Two Blind Brothers. The clothes are made by blind and visually impaired workers based in Dallas. For the holidays, the company is using Facebook and Instagram to show customers what it is like to live with sight disorders. Click on a link and you're directed to the company's blacked-out website, where you're prompted to "trust" the business and shop for products, such as shirts and backpacks, without the help of product images or descriptions. The New York-based retailer donates 100 percent of profits to Foundation Fighting Blindness.