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Not just a pretty space… the power of Experiential Retail

AUSVM Design is a full-service display and design agency specialising in retail environments

Shopping centres have become the coalface in the clash between bricks-and-mortar stores and the internet buying juggernaut. With the lure of online convenience at an all-time high post-COVID, what will it take to entice shoppers off their cosy couch and back into our retail wonderlands? In a nutshell – experience – writes Tamarra Barrett, Director of AUSVM Design.

While many centres and retailers have dabbled with offering an interactive experience to their customers, it is now time to stop simply ‘dipping our toes in the water’ and instead provide a full-blown interactive and immersive experience.

The need to provide interactive activations in our shopping centre environments is now dire. From pop-up spaces that scream ‘come on over’ to hoarding that offers more than simple signage, the opportunities are endless and the appeal limitless.

Experience sells, and it is not something that can be replicated online. It is the opportunity to turn a visit from a need to a want – with all of the emotional purse strings that it holds – taking the customer from a functional experience into an emotional one. Building an emotional connection with your customers is a currency that will serve you well and is not interchangeable with other brands or shopping experiences.

Experiential Retailing must be grounded in its focus on the five senses. While visually stimulating spaces have featured heavily in the past, there is an opportunity to step beyond this and activate the customer’s aural, textural and scent receptors as well. And don’t forget taste! Why not offer a pop-up experience that’s not just a pretty space? Use textural surfaces, stimulating sounds and factor in scents that entice.

The right use of scent can bring forth emotions in your customers that can make them want to stay longer, feel more comfortable and familiar with a brand and, ultimately, want to spend more. The choice of one texture over another will define the mood you want to set and the message you want to convey, as surely as a blinking neon sign. With a considered approach and these tools in your arsenal, untapped powers of persuasion can be unleashed.

Where’s the link between online and offline retailing…? Is it social media? Are you facilitating opportunities that capitalise on this link?

Selfie booth activation at Top Ryde Shopping Centre

Pop-up selfie booths are the perfect way to provide a structured opportunity for your customers to engage. Invest in a structure that is flexible, portable and reusable. There are a myriad of opportunities in any shopping calendar that can utilise this little gem, so whether it’s an off-the-shelf design or a custom-made masterpiece, put it to good use and reap the rewards.

Professional social media photography is a must; do you offer resources for your retailers to effectively execute theirs?

A picture speaks a thousand words, it transcends language barriers and connects people together. Through social media those attributes are shared exponentially through the most prolific means of global communication. Connect potential customers to your brand through well-crafted social media imagery. Choose your images carefully. “There is no second chance to make a first impression” has never been truer than with social media and the frenetic pace it sets. Click, swipe and you’re out!

Where in this vast ocean of opportunity do the greatest untapped areas lie? Simply stated, you can’t look past empty tenancies and hoarding.

Fresh Food display at a vacant store

Empty tenancies are an all too familiar concern for centres across the country. Try something innovative in these spaces. From pop-up markets, to pieces of art. From a foodie’s heaven to a gamer’s haven. The possibilities are too exciting to deny! Make them interactive, make them fun, make them loud, make them quiet, but above all else just make them exist!

Whether it’s a long-term vacancy or a short-term challenge, there are options to entice and appease customers at every turn. Activate your spaces, large and small.

Let’s talk hoarding because someone has to! Who is sick of seeing centre branding on a hoarding? My hand is firmly up in the air. Or better still, plain white hoarding! We can do better. We must do better! These areas are literally a blank canvas. One that customers can not only see from a mile away but could also potentially touch and feel. Why not? This is prime experiential retailing space. Let’s use it to make a statement, to evoke some feeling. Let’s create something that stops customers in their tracks and draws them in. It can look great, feel great, smell great and even sound great with a little bit of creative effort.

Christmas at Heritage Bank looks, smells and tastes better than it used to

Where shopping centres were once part of the mundane duties that make up everyday life; that is no longer the case. They are now an opportunity for an escape. An escape from work, an escape from home and, ideally an escape from the boring reality that most people exist within. So how do we achieve that? We form havens that our customers can feel connected to and retreat into. We carve out areas dedicated solely to experience, to evoking feelings and creating a bond with our customers, that in turn buys both their affection and their loyalty. And that right there is what creates new customers and keeps the old ones coming back, time and again.

You can provide a purely functional needs-based approach to your shopping environments or  you can evoke emotional responses and want-based purchasing that results in higher spend and increased loyalty. I know which one I would choose, how about you?

AUSVM Design can work with any brief to activate your retail space. Let us bring your space to life!

About the author

Tamarra Barrett

Tamarra Barrett is the head of AUSVM Design, a leading Display and Design agency. Australian experts on retail display, they have helped many shopping centre groups such as Vicinity, Scentre, Mirvac, GPT, Lendlease, JLL, CBRE and more to activate their centres with Experiential Retailing in mind. With more than 12 years experience in retail display and two decades as a retailing expert, Tamarra offers a wealth of experience backed by a creative, professional and reliable team. AUSVM Design is the first choice for Shopping Centres and Retail Brands wanting to take the experiences they offer to the next level.

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