Retail brands today are letting the products speak for themselves and that’s their new modus operandi. This trend is transforming the entire industry and experiential retail is the new concept that has taken center stage. With the advent of online shopping, e-commerce is gaining a significant momentum establishing an ever-increasing foothold in the retail industry and decreasing store visits by shoppers. Offline stores are now thriving to offer authentic experiences rather than being purely transactional. In line with this new trend and in order to remain relevant in an extremely competitive retail scenario, fashion brands like Fabindia, adidas India, Project Eve, etc. are now moving towards experiential retail. “Retail is increasingly revolving around creating new and immersive experiences that help customers experience the brand, creating memories that you would want to come back for. This is a welcome nudge to physical retail as it certainly must up its game. Whether it is inclusion of new services or assisted selling using technology, physical retail formats across the world over have been experimenting with various formats and it is great to see that momentum spread to the Indian market as well. At the end of the day, any retailer is only as happy as his customer is,” asserts Karan Kumar, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer, Fabindia.
Why Go Experiential?
The last decade has brought about immense changes in the overall retail environment which has led to both online and bricks-and-mortar stores to integrate the two experiences for a better and much evolved retail experience. According to Assocham, experiential retail is set to drive the Indian retail market which will reach US $ 1.1 trillion by 2020. So, what exactly had led to this change and what are the main reasons for this sudden advent of experiential retail outlets? The primary factors behind this advent fall into three categories: time, craving for personal touch and valuing experiences over things.
Experts agree that brands are gearing up to disrupt offline retail by offering experience that is intuitive, immersive and something that will create memories. Internationally, brands like GAP have infused augmented reality (AR) into their stores. While Nike has a basketball trial zone surrounded by high definition screens at its NYC store where consumers can try on basketball shoes and play the game with in-store athletes to get a real feel of the shoes. In line with this, fashion brands back home have also gone all out to offer similar retail set-up to their customers.
For adidas Originals, millennials are the key consumer segment and the brand has been at the forefront of offering its customers’ experiences that are well prevalent in the global markets. Amrith Gopinath, Brand Marketing Director, adidas India, says, “Experience-based stores enable brands in story-telling which in turn helps customers understand the product as well as connect with it. Shoppers want a seamless shopping experience and catering to this expectation can greatly influence their final purchase. Today, successful brands merge their offline and online experiences to give a true omni-channel shopping experience. The format of experience-based/ concept stores have worked well for adidas Originals.”
Similarly, Fabindia has its genesis in a unique exercise that has been undertaken to look at 100 different reasons for customers to visit a bricks-and-mortar store. “While the focus certainly remains on sales, the approach to selling has shifted gears. We have seen our customers being engaged in a greater way at our centres, spending more time and navigating through many more categories in the joyous comfort of the overall ambience. This has led to greater up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, leading to an increase in overall basket size and average bill value,” informs Karan.
The Fabindia experience centre engages the complete family with its offerings. In addition to its signature product offerings, these have wellness centres filled with products from Organic India along with a small room complete with a massage chair you can plop on post all the shopping. It allows customers to interact with trained consultants on various aspects of health, lifestyle and well-being. There is also an additional Alteration Studio as well as Interior Design Studio which is a one- stop design solution to help create memorable spaces while providing a range of services as consultancy on layouts, mapping spaces, product customisation and colour scheme coordination, etc. Also in- store is a kids’ zone called Tug Bug with trained staff who can watch over the kids’ trying their hands at pottery or papier-mâché. Fabindia also features Fabcafe which offers a nutritious menu wherein everything is prepared with organic and quality ingredients.
What’s In Trend?
The in-store experience must be crafted based on customer understanding. It is important to note that customers will go to stores not just to shop, but because of a connection they want with the brand. adidas Originals ensures this with its ‘Fashion Destination Door’ concept store wherein the brand ratifies its commitment to India by introducing retail hubs where customers experience the brand in unprecedented ways from a localised point of view. Experiential retail is just not about splurging on fancy gadgets, what really creates a difference is personalised shopping experience.
FabCafe, an interior design studio, organic wellness centre, alteration studio and a kids’ activity zone make the Fabindia experience centre a truly fulfilling one. While the inherent focus is on community, experience centres have the potential to be a part of several mini and micro-markets within any given mega city. Each experience centre by Fabindia is unique in the way that it both captures the essence and adapts to the local landscape of the community around it. Fabindia has recently opened another experience centre in Gurgaon after Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. As Karan aptly explains, “Delhi continues to be a very important market for us. It continues to drive a fairly large volume of discerning consumption. Gurgaon, on the other hand, has very rapidly evolved to become another extremely important market. The city has very large population of high-spending working people – relatively younger and very conscious of the choices they make. And this set of population is very warmly welcoming our experience centres.”
Besides experience retail outlets include creating informational displays wherein customers can browse through the overall collection and also through real-time store inventory with just a click on the screen; tech- savvy set-up including use of virtual reality, magic mirrors which allow one to try on the merchandise without even wearing one, etc.; engaging all the senses of customers; organising competitions within stores with sweepstakes and give-away prizes, among other things.
India is too diverse a country which makes it impossible to generalise the customer preference and to know what works in terms of product innovations and styles, activations and retail formats. Nevertheless, the retail market is evolving as well as the unique experiences being offered by them. For Fabindia, experience retail forms a major part of its plans for future. Karan concludes saying, “Presently, the company has 286 stores across 105 cities in India and 14 international stores. Fabindia Overseas Private Limited is India’s largest retail platform for a wide range of products produced by artisans living largely in rural areas. We plan to open around 100 experience stores over the next 18- 24 months and you can be certain that these would find presence across geographies and market tiers.” The future of retail is already here and customers are embracing it willingly and its about time that retail brands promote more of human interaction with the help of the right technology.