"Retailtainment": Inspiration for Your Experiential Retail Marketing Strategies

In the past year experiential marketing has become less of a buzzword and more of a necessity. Retail experiences make the brand nowadays, so retailers have to find new ways to create “retailtainment” – aka retail entertainment – in order to create customers’ interest in their brands.

Keeping this in mind, RetailDive reports that an increasing number of mid-level designers and home furnishing retailers such as Diane von Furstenburg, Todd Oldham, and home furnishing company, West Elm, are investing in hotel chains to create unique, immersive brand experiences for their customers — and this is simply one of the many ways retailers are using experiences to build enthusiasm and brand loyalty while strengthening sales. 

Retail decision-makers are well aware of the value that experiential marketing can bring to their brand.

“There’s a consensus among marketers that brand experience builds loyalty. Nine out of 10 respondents (in a recent survey) said they felt that brand experience delivers strong face-to-face interaction and more compelling brand engagement. And more than two-thirds of them agree that this medium is an effective way to achieve their business objectives,” shared Freeman CEO, Chris Cavanaugh, in a recent article for Adweek.

Since experiential retail is such a widely agreed upon necessity for retail companies to succeed, let’s review five of the most successful initiatives in experiential retailing to assist with brainstorming a unique marketing strategy for your store.


1. Timberland's Tree Lab

Timberland’s Tree Lab is housed at the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania and features footwear from Timberland displayed in a gallery style setting. With themes such as “Streetology” – focused on displaying comfortable shoes designed for city streets – and “Shevolution” – which showcases modern women’s footwear – the Tree Lab is Timberland’s take on creating a memorable retail shopping experience for their customers. Expanding on this, while customers shop, they can partake in beer cultivated by a local brewing company, Troegs Independent Brewing, and shoppers can sip water from a bottle that may one day in the future be recycled into a new pair of Timberland shoes. Collectively, these experiences create memorable moments for customers that lead them back to their store again and again and again.   

Experiential Marketing Example 1: Timberland Tree Lab


2. Breakfast at Tiffany's

In response to the iconic jeweler’s struggle to get younger customers to patronize their stores, Tiffany & Co. recently opened the Blue Box Café at its New York City flagship location. This new addition embodies the spirit of the 1961 Audrey Hepburn classic movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and prompted the New York Times to report that “Finally, You Can Have Breakfast at Tiffany"In a recent press release from Tiffany & Co, Reed Krakoff stated that “both the café and redesign of the Home & Accessories floor reflect a modern luxury experience. The space is experimental and experiential – a window into the new Tiffany.” It’s this reinvention that will determine their future – but along the way, one thing is for certain –experiences matter.


3. Disney's Live Stream

Disney stores were recently innovated in light of a sales slump which Bloomberg reports was up to 10 percent in the first nine months of 2017. In response to this dive, Disney revamped their website and reportedly doubled their online catalog with brand name items for adults such as Coach bags and Ethan Allen furnishings. In addition, Disney’s in-store remodel will now offer customers interactive birthday tidings from their favorite Disney characters, as well as show Disney’s daily parade streamed in from its theme parks from around the world. To top off the Disney shopping experience, store guests can also purchase cotton candy and mouse ears from a wheel-up “street vendor,” very similar to those seen at Disneyworld and Disneyland. These changes are all experiential oriented – reinforcing, once again, that experiences truly do matter when it comes to retail.

Experiential Marketing Example 3: Disney Live Stream


4. Urban Outfitters Pizzeria

Urban Outfitters is constantly innovating to provide customers with the newest in retailtainment. The Philadelphia-based retailer is always making headlines — from housing popular (albeit controversially-named) salon Hairroin, to acquiring a local pizzeria, Pizzeria Vetri, for its flagship store. Perhaps it is because of this constant innovation that – while other retailers were struggling to stay afloat – Urban Outfitters still managed to increase sales by 2.9 percent in the past year. Their consistent efforts to engage customers proves that entertaining their consumer audience helps drive sales as well.


5. Nordstrom "Local"

Nordstrom Local is an experiential concept by Nordstrom in West Hollywood, California. The store is significantly smaller than its traditional department stores and although the store is equipped to process returns, it has no inventory for sale. Instead, Business Insider reports that Nordstrom Local is staffed with tailors, personal stylists and manicurists – plus serves beverages such as custom espresso drinks, cold-pressed juices, and alcoholic beverages including beer and wine. Very simply, it’s clear Nordstrom has taken experiences up a notch to explore just how impactful it will be on their at-large brand.


Over to you now - what can you try?

The efforts of these big box brands vary in their experiences and services – yet one thing remains consistent among them all and that is the incorporation of experiential in their retail offerings. Their efforts, often grand and newsworthy, undoubtedly took time, took effort and took dollars to bring to life. Yet fortunately, for smaller to mid-sized merchants that may even include yourself, these efforts don’t have to be as grand to still make as memorable of an impact. Whether you live stream a local event in your store, offer beverages to all guests who visit your business or create more unique, one-of-a-kind experiences for your customers, the idea is simple – get engaged with entertaining your clientele to keep them shopping with your business again and again and again.


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About the Author

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded, a publication committed to supporting independent retailers through news, education and support, as well as the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. Recognized for her expertise in independent retail, Reyhle has published thousands of articles about small business and is the Author of the book “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business” from McGraw-Hill. Additionally, Reyhle has contributed to Forbes, Fiverr, IBM and more, and has been the Spokesperson for Small Business Saturday from American Express since 2014. Learn more about Retail Minded at www.retailminded.com, at @RetailMinded on Twitter or at Facebook.com/RetailMinded.