Immersive Retail Experiences - The definitive guide 2021Posted on April 13th, 2021
Retail needs a revolution
— The continued expansion of e-commerce is forcing physical outlets to adapt their strategy or face closure
— Consumer behaviour is changing; so-called “generation X” have grown up accustomed to shopping online
— Retail is lagging behind modern technological trends
— Generally poor integration with mobile services
— In-store infrastructure is often outdated
As traditional high street retailers, shopping centres and malls struggle to keep stores open, their competition are excelling by embracing change and understanding the need to create immersive retail experiences. Key to this transformation is treating retail as a destination experience more akin to a visitor attraction than a high street.
Driving these new immersive experiences is creative use of new technologies and a deeper understanding of the consumer and how they want to be entertained rather than sold to. A number of pioneering brands are leading the pack. Working with retail brands, investors and developers seeper design innovative retail experiences and that means we can share our knowledge in this guide.
Where are things headed?
Large shopping centres especially are moving towards creating more of an “experiential” offering
— Technology - particularly AR and VR - will become more commonplace
— 5G will accelerate integration of more powerful solutions
— Better integration with mobile apps and services
“100 million consumers will shop in Augmented Reality online and in-store by 2020” (Gartner)
Focus is shifting to consumers’ emotions and creating sharable “moments”
What’s the attraction?
Millennials see experiences as more valuable than material goods
— The purely ‘transactional’ side of shopping can be found online, whereas going shopping has become a more recreational and social activity
— Retailers are increasingly looking to provide entertainment services as a way to drive footfall in physical stores
We’re not alone in our vision for the future of retail; Forbes recently presented 6 Dimensions Of Experiential Retail, And The 20 Retailers Doing It Best: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregmaloney/2018/05/23/six-dimensions-of-experiential-retail-and-the-top-20-retailers-at-delivering-it/#142c1ba44586
There’s many more too, Raconteur have presented five brands they believe are pioneering the immersive retail experience:
Econsultancy have focused on seven innovators of the in-store customer experience
Many other publications are also tracking this shift in retail, with Store front sharing 7 Case Studies That Prove Experiential Retail Is The Future https://www.thestorefront.com/mag/7-case-studies-prove-experiential-retail-future/
Fashion United also believe that offering consumers ‘experiences’ is the future of retail
Virgin in store seats reverse show rooming:
Immersing The Senses in Retail
Life is a multi sensory experience that we use our senses to navigate and explore. We immerse ourselves into almost every aspect of our day to day. Retail environments should encourage this and engage our senses to entertain us and create memories. Vision, smell, sound, taste and touch all have a role to play. Bringing brands and their products to life through our senses involves cutting edge design, storytelling, content and creative use of technology.
The guardian believe that stores must appeal to all five senses: https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/aug/21/multi-sensory-retail-high-street
Business insider agree that retailers can can differentiate on store atmosphere: https://www.businessinsider.com/sensory-experiences-unique-opportunity-for-stores-2018-5?r=US&IR=T
Here are five examples of retail sensory experiences that have caught our eye:
Sensory marketing: the brands appealing to all five senses. “From virtual holidays in Hawaii to plane food playlists, brands are using new technology to interact with consumers”
Retail Experience Design
There’s two key approaches to transforming retail outlets, centres and malls. The retro fit or the blank canvas. Either way the design should be lead by the ‘experience’.
One pioneer of retail design is Apple. Forbes suggests Retailers Need To Learn From Apple About The Experience Economy: https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2017/12/13/three-things-retailers-need-to-learn-from-apple-about-the-experience-economy/
The approach Apple take in stores, is to create a place to learn, gather and serve. Recent redesigns have seen them adding trees and formatting the spaces to look and feel like town centres. One example of this covered by Dezeen is Apple’s Regent Street store: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/10/13/apple-store-foster-partners-architecture-retail-interiors-regent-street-london-uk/
Retail and brand Storytelling
To attract a wide demographic of people the story you tell is crucial. Enticing the public to become brand ambassadors rather than consumers. Creating a sense of place and community to keep them coming back for more. This includes making event spaces where the stories can change, adapt and react to the audience.
[Example to come in the next update as we wrap up a big new project!]
Transforming a space can take many forms both physical and digital. One example of physical theming design is Virgin’s stores where you take your photo in a first class seat: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/business-club/consumer-retail/in-store-shopping-experience/ then don a VR headset to experience and decide on your holiday destination.
Creative use of technology
Emerging, innovative technologies have always had a certain magic about them, the type that draw attention and encourage sharing. Put those technologies into the hands of creatives and what you get are unique experiences. Here we explore some of the technologies used for retail clients:
Extend your reality into the real of magic with XR - Extended Reality
This medium aims to encompass the whole spectrum from the ‘completely real’ to ‘completely virtual’, In particular the areas of AR, MR and VR explained below. The importance of this new tech frontier is pointed out by a 2018 Gartner survey, which indicated that, “by 2020, 46 percent of retailers planned to deploy either AR or VR solutions to meet customer service experience requirements.”
Another layer of reality with AR - Augmented Reality
Overlays virtual computer generated objects onto the real world. Gartner Says 100 Million Consumers Will Shop in Augmented Reality Online and In-Store by 2020: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-04-01-gartner-says-100-million-consumers-will-shop-in-augme
Lego recently launched an adult clothing brand in AR (Augmented Reality) using the Snapchat mobile platform. Potential customers around the world were targeted based on their age, location and other demographics; being offered an exclusive VIP ticket to a virtual store they can walk around using their mobile. Not to miss the physical first crowd, an empty store was opened in London with just the (QR like) Snapcode to enable the virtual store to appear overlaid on the physical store. Take a look at a video of the project here: http://www.seeper.com/work/lego-wear-snapchat-ar
As a testament to the success this kind of work can have for retailers, here’s some highlights of this projects press coverage:
The Evening Standard https://www.standard.co.uk/tech/snapchat-lego-wear-store-fitzrovia-a4065681.html
Mobile AR News
Enhance your reality with MR - Mixed Reality
Sometimes called Merged Reality, not just overlays but anchors virtual objects to real world objects and allows the user to interact with combined virtual/real objects. An example of the type of hardware making this possible is the Microsoft Hololens https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens and the Magic Leap https://www.magicleap.com/
A pioneering prototype for shopping centres and Malls is the Holoship where the audience take the first tourist journey to Mars, with a tour of the barrier reef and much more planned to come: http://www.seeper.com/work/holoship
A recent example saw Magic leap work with HBO https://www.hbo.com/ and Game of Thrones https://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones to launch an experience in retail stores, Variety covered it here: https://variety.com/2019/gaming/news/magic-leap-dead-must-die-game-of-thrones-1203173792/
Leap into another place with VR - Virtual Reality
Finally VR immerses users in a fully artificial digital environment and has dominated a lot of press and investment in recent years. There’s many examples of VR in retail, in particular we like the approach of the recent Star Wars touring experience, which appeared in shopping malls and centres like: https://uk.westfield.com/london offering a Midway, theme park like experience: https://www.thevoid.com/dimensions/starwars/secretsoftheempire/
Another prime example is Top Shop’s VR waterslide : https://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/05/25/topshop-transform-oxford-street-giant-water-slide-vr
Or how about bringing real physical objects into the VR world. Imagine someone passing you a bottle of beer and it appearing in your VR world, we did it for real: https://vimeo.com/seeper/review/183687398/a717ae636a
Enhancing point of sale information - Interactive touch tables
Featuring touch screen and object recognition technology, interactive tables are a perfect fit for retail. Imagine picking up a product (let’s say a perfume) and placing it on a table to trigger video, audio, animation and stories to explore. In this way you can immerse and educate the customer helping guide and excite their purchase.
[Example due here in next update of this article]
Shop Store Windows
Shopify have summed the opportunity up nicely:
“An experiential window brings products to life and attracts passersby to immediately interact with your brand. Inviting buyers to download an app on the spot encourages both in-store sales, future online purchases, and gives you access to these engaged customers for marketing purposes.” https://www.shopify.co.uk/retail/10-innovative-window-displays-that-you-should-consider-stealing
Here’s an example of Nike using social media to create an interactive store window that responds to people as they walk into their flagship London store:
You could even use living figures and shock customers as seemingly inanimate mannequins are brought to life. See more on this below.
Walls and windows that respond to your movement - Interactive walls and windows
Projection or screen based interactives enable a wide range of experiences. Typically detecting someone’s body, gestures, eyes or touch enables the customer to interact. Sometimes for the purely playful like this example in Primark where walking pat the wall triggers various animations:
In other instances the wall becomes a window into another space. For example making it appear is if you’re in a different place, country or similar. Displays framed to look like windows appear to allow a glimpse outside to anywhere you can imagine, for example looking out the window of a plane, across a desert or onto a tropical beach. In this instance eye tracking technology can be used to change the perspective of the view to make it hyper real. [Example due in here in next update of this article]
Magical Photo Frames - Interactive photos and posters
Another example using eye or body tracking to enable the seemingly magical and impossible. Imagine what looks like a normal photo framed on the wall, when you look at it your eye appears to burn a hole or reveal colour where there was black and white.
A similar principle using face tracking could see what looks like an ornately portrait made of product, (in this instance fruit and veg) all of sudden move as you do, you realise the image is made up of your face. Take a look at a project that does just that: http://www.seeper.com/work/magic-mirror
Virtual try on - Interactive Mirrors
Some retailers have embraced the use of interactive mirrors that allow digital content to appear overlaid on your reflected image. Typical examples allow you to select different clothes, glasses, hats or other accessories and see how they look rapidly without needing to get changed.
A similar principle applies for makeup solutions, allowing you to easily expert on your phone or interactive mirror to try different foundation, eye liner, lipstick or similar; ultimately making your choice and directing you effortless to a purchase.
Find what you want and where it is with digital Wayfinding
The convenience and speed of online retail can making finding what you want easy. It’s vital for physical retail spaces to make it just as easy but also more enjoyable a long the way.
The historical solution has been totem like maps, text and information heavy, supposedly guiding you to the store or product you need. These system typical overwhelm and confuse the most savvy members of the public. Early digital solutions weren’t much more than glorified maps. Today however we’re able to offer a new era of wayfinding based around simple touch screen and mobile solutions to rapidly find the customers needs and fulfill them effortlessly.
[Examples due in here in next update of this article]
This is an area of current research with our next generation projection technology already rolling out around the world. A quick teaser here, with more to come in the next update:
Imagine allowing visitors to get up close and personal with their favourite footballers, monsters, movie stars and more.
How can you create an immersive retail experience?
Create moments of awe and wonder that compel shoppers to visit your destination and share their experience.
5 key aspirations for improving the retail experience:
— 1 Make an impression - Create memorable spectacles that grab shoppers’ attention
— 2 Drive sales - Use creative and technical solutions to encourage spending
— 3 Shareable moments - Inspire shoppers to share their experience with others
— 4 Engage & entertain - Captivate your audience & add drawing power to your “destination”
— 5 Expand the experience - Apply innovative solutions that enhance the customer journey
Think about what success looks like and who you want to target then give us a shout. We can collaborate with your team to conceptualise, design and build your future retail experience. firstname.lastname@example.org +44(0)207 099 6835
Check back for future updates, with us covering more on:
— Transforming an environment with Interactive floors
— Projection Mapping
— Design the mood, look and feel with Responsive lighting
— Creates a space that constantly changes with a Responsive environments
— Connect with your audience through Social Media