An Engaging Experience…But Where Do You Start?

An Engaging Experience…But Where Do You Start?

An Engaging Experience…But Where Do You Start?

by John Stanley

Whether they realize it or not, today’s discerning consumer is looking for an engaging experience in addition to good-looking prices. With this in mind, retail experts believe it’s time to rethink the retail process. It sounds overwhelming, but it’s possible. So what exactly is an engaging retail experience, and where do you start when it comes to providing it? Here are some ideas on how to get started.


Pick up any trade magazine, or read any retail report on the web, and many of the reports state that to attract the consumer of today, you need to provide an engaging experience. Clearly, it is about more than just pricing and selling stuff these days. It’s time to rethink the retail process experience, but where do you start?


Engaging Millennials

Millennials will be the major spenders by 2017, and many retailers need to move rapidly to ensure they engage them, especially when they often seem to be the hard-to-reach generation.

In a recent article in Greenhouse Grower, Stephanie Whitehouse-Barlow, a Millennial who is also a retailer, wrote an article on her perception of what needs to take place in the retail environment. Her main message was that you need to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes, and when it comes to Millennials, they have a big fear—the fear of failure.

The Millennials are from a generation that went through school where they were encouraged to succeed, and failure was not an option. They have now entered a world where fear of failure is a major driver in their day-to-day actions, and they are reluctant to take on a new task or hobby where they feel they may fail. This creates an opportunity and a challenge for retailers. Those who understand how the Millennial consumer is thinking and can help them in a positive way will be the winners. In developing a strategy to engage the consumer and win them over, consider the following aids to engagement:

  • Start with the end in mind. Show the consumer what the finished scenario might look like for them, then follow that up with a step-by-step approach to achieving that success.
  • Create a series of YouTube videos on how to succeed. This will enable consumers to follow a step-by-step approach while they are engaged in the relevant project and to refer back to your videos as they proceed.
  • Explain the “why” and the relevant benefits before you proceed to explaining “how.” Make sure the benefits are the relevant benefits to the consumer, as they may change with age groups.
  • Remove any jargon from the conversation and point-of-purchase signage. Jargon just puts fear into the consumer’s mind.
  • Create community-style coaching classes where the consumer can learn new skills.
  • Listen to your Millennial sales team and take tips from the proactive, younger sales team members.


Combine Activities with Unlikely Partners to Grow Sales

Traditionalists will tell you that you should stick to knitting. In other words, they say you should remain a specialist and not venture into areas that are not your core business. The challenge is that in today’s retail world, it becomes tough to define your core business. For example, there are fashion stores that now sell plants. Companies such as Urban Outfitters have always believed they should follow their customer’s direction. Urban Outfitters attracted Millennials through its flagship store, and as their consumer base got older, Urban Outfitters targeted the same group of consumers through its sister business, Anthropologie. Then, as these consumers matured again, they were targeted once more through Terrain, a garden lifestyle retail outlet.

The parent company in this case realized that the Urban Outfitters model is more than about clothing, it is about the experience. The company is now attracting some of the best chefs in the country to open restaurants in each of their stores. The company’s message to the consumer is that they are a “lifestyle concept” store that creates an experience beyond retailing clothing. This business model also aims to get consumers to spend more time and money instore rather than online. The directors of the company believe that when it comes to Millennials, food and shopping go together in the same store. One of the keys to success for Urban Outfitters is the way the company looks at each of its local markets and develops and models the stores based on the local communities. The take-away message here is that it’s a good idea to look at what combination of experiences you can put together to engage the consumer.


Now is the Time

More and more retailers are developing new strategies to engage the consumer with an experience that ensures shoppers linger longer within the same business or store. Yes, they might also shop online, but the average sale will go up when a consumer is engaged inside a store.



John Stanley is a retail consultant and conference speaker. He can be reached at

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