As social media drives a need for brands to continuously produce engaging content, some retail stores, already impacted by the pandemic, have reacted by rethinking how they use their physical space — marking a shift from commercial hub to something more closely resembling sponsored content.
The shift to the physical content
Experiential retail — retail that emphasizes a social media-friendly experience over the actual act of selling — seems to be the way of the future for high-profile brands. It’s not surprising, and it isn’t exactly new in the strictest sense. Brands have always sought to impress with their flagship locations, and luxury brands have made a point of turning their physical locations into branded destinations for decades now.
But as the e-commerce revolution has continued to expand over the past year and a half, more and more brands, and especially popular direct-to-consumer brands, have shifted to experiential retail. But what exactly does that look like? Careful physical design, an attractive but streamlined purchasing experience, and a brand-centric environment are all key aspects of experiential retail.
More specifically, that might mean an emphasis on a brand’s story, even to the extent of a retail store containing a visually appealing and informative timeline of a company’s history. You might be encouraged to hang around by a built-in cafe, coffee cart, or juice bar, or you might be nudged to do a little social media marketing yourself thanks to the store’s attractive (and shareable) spaces.
Simply put, every aspect of the space is meant to tell you something about the brand’s narrative — and the more interactive, the better.
Key brands leaning into experiential retail
Rest assured, plenty of brands are making the leap into experiential retail, but we’ve brought together a few great examples below.
Glossier, the trendy makeup and skincare brand, takes its physical space to the next level with its Manhattan location, featuring an eye-catching pink staircase and heavily mirrored product rooms, where visitors can try on products. The maximalist approach to retail can feel at times like a popular Yayoi Kusama exhibit and is — of course —highly Instagrammable.
Visual appeal is key, but experiential retail stores can also mimic the experience of being online itself. Popular women’s magazine Allure is opening an innovative tech-and-editorial-led retail store in Manhattan that will span 2,900 square feet. The store will feature a curated selection of beauty products from more than 150 brands — all grouped under “headlines” like “Here’s How to Get Soft, Dewy Skin All Year Long.” If you’ve ever wondered how clickbait would translate to real life, Allure has your answer.
Footwear giant Nike has jumped into the experiential retail game with Nike Rise, an immersive retail location designed to interact with the Nike app. App users can book exercise classes and appointments to customize their products — or head in-store and get a fitting with Nike Fit, a high-tech foot scanning technology. And it goes without saying, the space itself is sleek and futuristic — a visual reminder that the future is now, and the brand is ready for it.