Over the past few years, the retail world has been abuzz with the news that millennials are far more willing to shell out their hard earned dollars for experiences, rather than physical objects. Due to the fact that millennials make up over one-quarter of the population, the future of the retail industry relies on catering to the tastes and purchasing habits of this often misrepresented group.
One way that brands can approach this issue is by finding innovative ways to engineer enhanced shopping experiences. Optimal retail experiences should bring consumers through a personalized journey, employing immersive methods to engage the buyer’s senses and imagination.
Without the ability to touch and feel a product —something which is still important to buyers and their purchasing decisions —e-commerce platforms face an added challenge when it comes to evoking the feeling of experience. To combat this problem, some savvy brands are taking a different approach to product descriptions, which focuses on storytelling over touting the item’s technical attributes. These effective blurbs instead aim to evoke a certain feeling or life moment, to conjure up images in the shopper's mind of how this product will fit into their lives. Take the example nerdy-product e-tailer, ThinkGeek, and their description of their “jumpsuit sleeping bag”:
Sleeping bags are designed to keep all your parts together to conserve heat. The trouble with this is that, well - it's a bag. If you have to get up to do something in the middle of the night - check on the fire, get a snack, relieve yourself, you're basically back at Field Day doing a sack race around your campsite.
Rather than just listing the specs, this description situates the product in a campsite, drawing a picture in the buyer’s imagination of how they would use this product.
Adventure wear brand Best Made Co. takes this experiential storytelling approach one step further with the “adventure” section of their site, which features cinematic slideshows of their gear being used on adventures, along with a “gear featured” bar and a strong story as a description. One reads:
Traipsing around the Great Bear by seaplane, helicopter and, of course, on foot, we put our gear to the test and tried hard to not get too distracted by the mountains that crashed into oceans, trees older than all of us combined or pods of euphoric dolphins over 1000 strong.
By conjuring up an image of the experience that a buyer might have with these products, the company appeals to the millennial mindset. In brick and mortar stores, the same pressure has arisen to generate authentic in-store experiences that go beyond the expected and create reasons for consumers to forgo the ease and convenience of online shopping for in-person purchasing.
One way smart brands are accomplishing this is by creating in-store experiences that incentivize customers to log off and show up in person. Macy’s opened a special floor targeted towards millennials, which sports selfie walls and 3D printers where you can print out your own custom-made products. Best Buy entices customers with their beloved customer service resource, Geek Squad, which provides walk-in service for broken gadgets —a benefit online shoppers miss out on. Similarly, skincare brand Aesop has in-person skin consultants on hand, who help consumers pick which products will suit them best—something that can't be replicated online. Lowe's is taking another innovative approach by making use of emerging technology, debuting virtual reality kiosks that enable consumers to enter a Lowe's-designed room and experience it in 360 degrees before they buy. Increased personalization, concierge-style services and tech tools like VR are savvy ways for brick and mortar locations to compete with commerce platforms.
With brick and mortar brands suffering major losses, companies who wish to stay above water should focus on superior, personalized customer service and compelling experiences, and ecommerce platforms should temper their inability to create tactile experiences with experience-focused descriptions which excite customers.