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Experientialism: The catalyst of retail disruption

person reaching out to coloured lights on wall

Happiness. People are always searching for it.

In a nutshell

  1. People's spending habits reflect a shift from materialism to experientialism. They want to immerse themselves in rich experiences and explore the unknown.
  2. This change in mind-set has created a tough business environment where companies must now compete for consumers’ attention. To do this, organisations are creating experiential retail environments and utilising emerging technologies to encourage shoppers to immerse and interact. 
  3. To be successful, brands have to be memorable and use it as an opportunity to create an experience centred around their product and brand values.

They devote their time, energy and money in pursuit of what brings them joy and satisfaction. Our Western culture has typically associated happiness with things – more money, a house with a pool, a brand new car, new clothes, and so on… but this is changing.

To do or to have?

We know that people are willing to open their wallets and spend money on what brings them pleasure, but what they are choosing to spend money on reflects the shift from materialism to experientialism. 

Shoppers are overlooking things and are instead turning to a desirable experience. They aren’t willing to spend $150 on a dress but will spend this at an amazing restaurant without hesitation or regret. They want to immerse themselves in rich experiences and explore the unknown.

Millennials in particular are seeking these more meaningful experiences. In contrast to their parents' and grandparents' generations where success was determined by materialistic items and wealth, acquiring items no longer dictates your status. People seek to be rich in experiences rather money.

Experiences aren’t the only driver of the shift from materialism. Marie Kondo has brought minimalism to the mainstream. Although it is not a new concept, the minimalist lifestyle is trending, and the movement has inspired people to cut their wardrobes and declutter their life in order to focus on what’s important.

Survival of the most innovative

So how do businesses survive in a climate where people are less inclined to spend money on material objects, where they already have enough stuff, and they’re de-cluttering their life? This change in mind-set has created a tough environment for many companies. It’s no longer just competition between other retailers and brands, companies must now compete for consumers’ attention and persuade them that their purchase is meaningful and worthwhile.

To compete for this attention, organisations are creating experiential retail environments. Even typical product based industries are changing to become more experiential. Instead of pushing product marketing, companies are incorporating value-added elements to their stores that attempt to get customers to immerse and interact. At the House of Vans in London you can find a cinema, café, live music venue, art gallery, half pipe and street course across the 30,000 square feet building.

house of vans concert
House of Vans holds concerts in their live music venue

We are in 2019, so of course companies are also using technology to immerse customers in the experience. Audi offers potential customers a VR experience as an immersive way to experience their dream car within the showroom. Similarly, fashion retailer Farfetch provides a screen for customers to use where they can sign in and search their purchase history and shopping list, providing customer insight for the sales assistants. There is also a smart mirror so they can request different sizes or products and even pay without leaving the changing room.

The rise of the experience

As businesses continue to think outside the box and deliver unique experiences to their customers, people's appetite for 'new' will only increase. The simplest experiences will no longer be that and businesses are going to need to be creative and innovative to keep consumers interested.

As consumers, our interactions with brands are different. We no longer simply make a purchase and walk away. Consumers want to feel like the brand is listening – they don’t just want the goods or services, they want an experience, and memorable ones at that. Brands have to foster this and use it as an opportunity to create an experience centred around their product and brand values.

Alice Olliver
Consultant at TRA

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