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Is retailing as we know it dead?

Before the world changed, I went into a perfume retailer to buy some after shave for myself. They didn’t have my usual brand so I asked to sample and smell another brand from the same perfume house.

I was told I couldn’t.

I could not smell a perfume in a perfume shop.

In the 21st century.

What was the point of the shop I asked?

Without the ability to smell the product I would be better off to go online and buy my preferred brand.

Which is what I did. A lost sale and a lost customer – forever.

I was missing the experience that was expected and should have been delivered. In this particular case an experience that cannot be delivered via the internet - smell.

This (lack of) experience was a demonstration of a long-held belief as a marketing professional that consumer experience is the future of retailing.

Later in the year I had the pleasure to visit Montreal in Canada where I experienced a Canada Goose clothing store. As a way of demonstrating the superior quality of their jackets they had installed a cold room, -24C. Everyone in the shop went in, with and without the coats on. It was fun! It was an experience and it was “on-brand”. Canada Goose have gone further in Toronto with a store that is ALL experience. You enter a number of rooms on your journey through the store, try on the coats and jackets and at the end order your size and style online for delivery to your home the same day in Toronto. Simple and generates great PR! By using the expensive downtown real estate to deliver consumer experience and then storing the inventory at a cheaper out of town distribution hub delivers the experience and the service needed. (And almost certainly more profitable!)

Scroll on to our post COVID world, which may be forever altered, but consumers will continue to want “experience” (as well as value and pleasure). Retailing, in its widest definition; all direct to consumer activities, so including hospitality and entertainment; will need to offer value adding experiences to consumers to win.

Post COVID, people will be more aware, more demanding and certainly more considered about where they chose to spend their money. It’s up to retailers to ensure they offer the consumer value through experience to survive. Canada Goose are on track. In the same trip I visited Bath & Body Works who also have embraced the experience. They want you to try their products so much, they have installed wash basins around the store.

Thing might have changed but consumers will always want experiences.

Retailing dead? No not yet, but on life support. Retailing has to adapt to the consumer desire for real experience

Mark Shepherd is the owner of The Branding Authority, a consultancy bringing big brand expertise without big agency bills. Mark is also a lecturer in marketing at The University of Applied Sciences, Western Switzerland.

If you would like a free consultation, please contact me.

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