By Kailynn Bowling, co-founder of ChicExecs PR & Retail Strategy Firm

Contrary to popular belief, many customers still prefer to shop in store. In fact, it's often stated that over 80% of all retail sales happen in brick-and-mortar stores. Retail shoppers even spend more -- provided you can get them in the door.

That’s the problem plaguing retailers in 2019: how to get young shoppers interested in offline shopping again. As co-founder of a retail strategy firm, I believe the hottest trend to get more customers through the front door is experiential retail. 

The Benefits of Going Outside the Box

While it requires a dash of creativity to create experiential retail spaces, it’s worth the effort. I believe the world increasingly values genuine, unique experiences over traditional “sell-and-tell” retail. Your brand stands to gain a lot when you think outside the traditional retail space. 

1. Better Education

Customers do their research before they go to your retail store. However, experiential retail complements this research with education. 

Customers connect with your sales reps to talk about your brand and product. They see your product and immediately get what you’re about. A simple shoe rack isn’t going to educate them, but an experience will.

2. Immediate Immersion

If you want people to build a connection with your brand, you have to tell a story. Experiential retail immediately pulls customers into your story. 

For example, Adidas’s flagship store features a running track where customers can test-drive shoes. With this setup, you immediately understand Adidas’s purpose and how they help you as a customer.

3. Shareable Experience

You would be amazed at how far some customers will go for a good Instagram photo. When you create a visually engaging experience, customers want to share it with their friends, both in person and online. This encourages organic sharing, boosting foot traffic to your retail location. 

Out-of-the-Box Ideas for Your Experiential Retail Strategy

It’s easy to talk about the importance of experiential retail, but it’s another matter entirely to implement it for your brand. Here are a few ways big brands integrate experiential retail in their brick-and-mortar stores. 

1. L’Occitane

L’Occitane knows that trends come and go. That’s why this retailer iterates its design almost constantly. Because user tastes change so quickly today, L’Occitane updates its stores every three months. 

A darling for Instagram users, L’Occitane’s displays are purposely designed to be shareable. They even offer activities like photoshoots at their stores to invite the Insta-crowds. 

Don’t be afraid to update your stores often. As long as you keep in line with your brand identity and palette, customers will love the updates.

2. American Girl

American Girl’s flagship store is dedicated to forging bonds between girls and their American Girl dolls. They have a beauty salon where customers can get their and their doll’s hair done in matching styles. American Girl even added a design studio where girls can choose matching outfits for themselves and their dolls. 

See how you can encourage customers to engage more with your product. American Girl provides paid services that not only pamper their customers but create lasting memories. 

3. Farm Stores

Farm Stores is a convenience store brand from Florida. Their drive-through concept sells everything from baked goods to vegetables to household staples. 

Although the chain has been around since 1935, they have an incredibly modern twist to their retail locations. To save on costs and be environmentally friendly, Farm Stores builds its drive-throughs out of shipping containers

Farm Stores give customers the convenience they need with the social responsibility they expect from brands in 2019. This helps the brand appeal to eco-conscious millennials and Gen Zers while delivering the convenience of a drive-through. As autonomous vehicles come to market, Farm Stores plans to create autonomous-friendly services for delivery to its customers.

4. M.M.LaFleur

While many stores integrate technology in their experiential retail, some brands choose not to use tech at all. That’s the case for M.M.LaFleur, which believes it’s not about using technology for its own sake, but to build a relationship with customers. 

Clients schedule an appointment at M.M.LaFleur and note their size, color and style preferences. An assistant pulls pieces and helps the customer as she tries on different clothes. 

M.M.LaFleur uses human-curated shopping to give customers a “big-sister” retail experience where they help and get to know the customer -- no tech assist necessary in-store.

The Bottom Line

Experiences don’t have to be expensive and complex. They just need to deliver on what customers want. Create a space that’s inviting, aligned with your brand mission and that delights customers. They’ll reward your out-of-the-box thinking with retail loyalty.

Kailynn Bowling is the co-founder of ChicExecs PR & Retail Strategy Firm.

Published on: Aug 1, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.