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How to Win Over the Experiential Shopper

It’s been just over a week since Macy’s announced plans to shutter 100 of its stores next year, but little has made the headlines about what the department store is doing to improve the in-store experience, such as stepping up its My Stylist personal shopping service.

Offering a little something extra is par for the course in brick-and-mortar retail these days, with everyone from Urban Outfitters to Ralph Lauren housing on-site coffee shops or eateries. And with good reason: millennials want experiences, not things. But offer both and there’s a good chance they’ll spend.

“Retailers of all shapes and sizes are increasingly creating new and innovative shopping experiences for their customers—an area where luxury brands have traditionally shined. They’re altering the way in which they deliver customer service to meet the changing expectations of these experiential consumers,” said a recent report from retail marketing platform Cue Connect.

Titled “A Retailer’s Guide to Winning the Tailored Shopping Experience,” the survey uncovered four experiences that are most popular among U.S. consumers.

“It is always striking to me that, for all the hard work brands do to attract shoppers to their store or website, they don’t do nearly enough to make them stay,” said Berkley Bowen, Cue Connect’s founder and chief executive. “A successful experiential strategy is one where retailers anticipate why a customer would choose to leave their store or site and provide them with access things like social channels on-site or coffee shops in-store to encourage them to stay.”

The Luxury Experience

Consumers crave the white-glove treatment that’s the norm in upscale retail—but that’s not to say the same attention to detail can’t be offered at other price points. Cue Connect suggests creating a tiered loyalty program that categorizes shoppers based on the amount of money they spend, with the high rollers receiving access to invite-only events for sneak peeks at new products. Another easy way to up the ante: sending shoppers a special offer on their birthday.

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The Active Experience

Also known as the new “try before you buy.” Activewear stores should take a leaf out of Lululemon or Athleta’s book and host free fitness classes. In fact, 22 percent of consumers surveyed by Cue said they love when a retailer sponsors workout classes so they can try out a product before purchasing it. As the platform put it, “Active shoppers respond best to brands that identify with a specific lifestyle that they can then buy into and embody.”

The Connected Experience

Virtual reality headsets might seem like a silly way for consumers to experience a brand in a brick-and-mortar store, but there are plenty more technology-driven ways to connect with shoppers. Cue suggests offering incentives that can only be accessed by downloading the retailer’s mobile app. Another good one: a push notification for discounted umbrellas if rain is forecast or swimwear if sunshine is on the way.

The Curated Experience

Curated could be one of the most overused words in fashion retail, but a lot of people prefer to put the least amount of effort into shopping, meaning they expect retailers to cater to them based on their purchase history—not by asking tons of questions. Said Cue, “Ensure that initial customer engagements are detailed enough to get a strong understanding of their preferences, without seeming too tedious to the consumer.”

Bowen added, “Today’s consumer is in pursuit of more than just a product when they embark on their shopping journey. Now, more than ever, shoppers today want an experience; something meaningful that compels them to enter a store or click on a website and commit their loyalty to that brand. Every consumer has a unique journey and it’s the retailer’s job to understand and tailor their engagement strategy accordingly.”