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As the horizon of 2019 nears and holiday shopping season is over, we’re taking a look at how customers shopped this past year, and what made the most successful brands.

First, let’s start off with one glaring fact no retailer can ignore. While there are tremendously successful digitally-native companies (i.e. companies that began and grew from online sales only, like AllBirds, Warby Parker, or Birchbox), sporting a physical retail space is still the mark of a blooming business. That’s because despite the rapid rise of online sales, 86% of shopping is still done in store.

That’s tremendous opportunity for every single retailer, obligating them to ensure the customer  experience is absolutely perfect. JLL Retail, a top research firm in the retail industry, identified the six dimensions of experiential retailing, equipped with brands doing it the best. As we head into 2019, here’s some ways to optimize your space, too.

 

1. Experiences should be intuitive

There should be an obvious connection between the experience itself and the product. For instance, if you’re a clothing retailer, don’t have a video wall of a runway collection that isn’t yours (I’ve seen it!). If you don’t have live runway footage, consider investing in a custom software for a video wall that features your products in an interesting way. More so, if you’re a car showroom, feature every single asset of the car’s tech dashboard on a wall, or allow customers to build their own car with a custom touchscreen app. The examples abound, but ensure all experiences are directly related to the product. 

 

2. Include a human element

It must have an enticing human element, meaning inviting shoppers to touch, watch, smell, wash, whatever. One of the top experiential contenders, Bath and Body Works, was the first to allow customers to test products at the sinks in their store. Apple lets shoppers touch and play with their precious iPads, computers, and phones. Online could never beat this, and physical, human interaction with products drives sales higher than in store.

 

3. Make your brand meaningful

By virtue of customers being in store, they can experience multiple facets of your business at once; they’re not just looking a single product page versus a landing page. They’re immersed in an entire space that can feature all the things you’re immensely proud of about your company, and you want to showcase. While instant gratification is associated with in-store shopping, shoppers in 2019, especially millennial and Gen Z shoppers, are motivated by shopping with brands that align with their values. Use the store space to showcase your corporate sustainability initiatives or other meaningful projects your brand has taken on.

 

4. Implement immersive technology 

If customers wanted to shuffle through jam-packed racks of clothes or shelves of product with every color and size, they could do it a lot easier online. Create an immersive experience for customers by making the products more interactive and exciting, perhaps through digital directories, photo booths, or wall-sized touch screen installations.

 

5. Ensure accessibility

Because customers can type in a search bar what they’re looking for or checkout with a few clicks, it’s crucial that retailers leverage tech to ensure shopping at their store is as simple and intuitive as possible. Retailers should encourage mobile payments, faster, automated checkouts, or product way-finding in their store to accommodate to the highly-engineered seamlessness customers are used to when shopping online.

 

6. Personalize the space

Having customers in your space is a unique opportunity to accommodate to their wants, interests, and most importantly, shopping habits. Because there are so many shopping options at their fingertips, it’s crucial to make discounts, ease, and rewards accustom to what they’re used to.

 

With that, we’re looking forward to how retail changes in 2019, and how retail tech and immersive customer experiences are part of that revolution.