Staying relevant in the retail industry is no easy feat, and keeping customers interested and engaged is even harder. With competition growing both online and offline, retailers are looking for new, innovative ways to add value to their existing retail experiences.
Enter retail entertainment, or “retailtainment.” From experiential pop-ups to live shopping shows, both brick-and-mortar and digital stores, including Amazon, are investing in retail entertainment experiences that engage customers, build brand awareness, and increase sales.
On Amazon Live, the live video shopping platform from the ecommerce giant, sellers can live-stream product demonstrations, fireside chats, and other content and directly link viewers to the mentioned products for seamlessly integrated transactions. QVC is also investing in live video technology, with the home shopping network announcing the launch of its video-based mobile shopping app earlier this year.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials are on the cusp of replacing baby boomers as the biggest adult generation. They have already dramatically shifted retail by spending money on “experiences” over products, and as this group enters their prime spending years, their impact is forcing retailers to reevaluate the way to keep their existing customer base and attract new shoppers.
But, retailtainment isn’t just for millennials. Older consumers are just as tech-savvy but still receptive to traditional marketing. In other words, consumers of all ages are ideal audiences for in-store and online retailtainment experiences.
Bowling alleys and bike rides
The concept of providing customers with entertainment while they shop isn’t new. In fact, brick-and-mortar stores like Bass Pro Shops for years have been providing visitors with unique amenities such as themed restaurants to bowling alleys. It wasn’t until long-established retailers started to close their doors and more digitally native brands started to open physical locations, however, that more companies started to invest in fun, unique, and “experiential” retail experiences for their guests.
For example, L’Occitane decided to immerse visitors at its flagship store in French culture with a number of retailtainment experiences, including a stationary “bike ride” through the countryside via a screen and a virtual reality-powered hot air balloon ride. Rather than push products, the store aims to raise consumer awareness beyond the beauty brand’s usual, forty-something female customer and target a wider audience.
A new take on the shopping show
Like L’Occitane, both brick-and-mortar and digital retailers are taking advantage of technology to engage with their customers. ShopShops, a live-stream global marketplace that connects retailers and brands directly with cross-border shoppers, uses the power of live video to connect brick-and-mortar brands with new audiences across the world. The marketplace has partnered with fashion brands including Opening Ceremony and independent designers to offer products through shopping platforms like Taobao to consumers in China, where live streaming is among the top tech trends across the country.
Described as “QVC for the social media generation,” interactive shopping is a win-win for both retailers and consumers: the retailer gains access to a new market and revenue stream, while customers can take part in the action of the live “shopping show” themselves.
While not a retailer itself, mobile app Gravy combines entertainment and retail to create to give its players a “live shopping game show” experience, where players can compete to get the best deal on the show’s featured product, as well as cash and other prizes. Using live video broadcasting, the host talks to users during each episode, while the players can choose to talk to each other using the app’s in-game chat functionality.
The app even added a recent feature that “beams in” players live so they talk to the whole community. Because the app doesn’t advertise like a traditional business, it relies entirely on engagement from users to drive transactions. The more participation, the better.
The retail landscape is constantly evolving, and for both online and offline retailers, the rapid change can be intimidating. But by taking advantage of the right technology and focusing on engaging their customers in new, unexpected ways, like retail entertainment experiences, retailers both online and offline can keep up.
Sumo Heavy is a digital commerce consulting and strategy firm.