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  • Writer's pictureJamie Leeper

Modern retail, it's all about the in-store experience

However, just building a simple retail store unfortunately won't cut it in the current age in which we live. Gone are the days of people just going to the store to quickly pick up a pair of jeans, or to try on a pair of shoes. Now, retailers are looking for more and more creative ways to entice their customers into the store, keep them there longer, and have them return more frequently. For this to be possible there needs to be things in place that create the in-store experience that will keep customers coming back for more.

A look inside a traditional brick and mortar retail store
The in-store experience has never been more important for retailers

The world of retail has changed so much over the past decade with the emergence of online retailers, headed up by Amazon, meaning that most people can shop from the comfort of their living room without the need to actually visit a physical store. Retailers such as Toys 'r' Us, K-Mart and Gymboree which were once a staple of the local shopping environments, have gone out of business completely, while other brands have consolidated their portfolio in recent years by closing a large number of sites.

Today, the most successful retailers embrace an omnichannel approach where they mesh a strong online presence with a fleet of flagship stores which essentially act as a marketing tool and provide a place for consumers to interact with and fall in love with the brand.

Here are four examples of retailers who are 100% committed to the in-store experience and classify themselves as destination retailers or experiential retailers:

(1) Apple - Have you ever seen an Apple store void of customers during regular business hours? I know that I haven't and one of the reasons for this is that the powers that be at the Silicon Valley-based powerhouse have mastered the in-store experience. Walk into an Apple store and you will be surrounded by fellow people who love the brand and would never dream of owning an Android device. They are committed to the brand and what it stands for, and love spending time in the store with fellow Apple junkies. For those iPhone users out there, you will likely be very familiar with the Genius Bar: this is an attraction within every Apple store where you can get personal support from an Apple expert on how to best use your device. You might end up finalizing your purchase online, but the hard work is typically done in the comfort of a brick and mortar store.

(2) REI - You most definitely could run into a store quickly to grab a new pair of hiking boots, or you could get them even faster by shopping online from the comfort of your living room. However, where's the fun in that? What happens when they arrive and they don't fit correctly, or they look different to how they were pictured? Well, an alternative solution exists at REI where you could try them on while climbing a rock-wall on your lunch break.

Customers climb rock wall during visit to REI store
Rock wall climbing in-store experience at REI

(3) Shinola - This Detroit based company has a nationally renowned brand that is loved by Americans everywhere. Most Shinola stores can be found in trendy up and coming areas that are typically inhabited by millennials and young professionals who are very closely connected to their local community. No two Shinola stores are the same, and the mixed uses within this retail space include cafe, restaurants, bocce ball courts, and of all things, a tattoo parlor! This variety and the other reasons to visit mean that Shinola, and their sister company Filson, are often full of loyal customers who live and breathe the brand.

(4) Scheels Sports - This is one of our personal favorites to visit as a family for obvious reasons. Now, granted there are many products here that could be purchased for the same cost or cheaper at the major national retail stores, or even online, but the experience is why we go to Scheels. Where else can you watch a diver feed tropical fish and then clean the tank as you watch from below, or take a ride on a Ferris wheel while your mum shops for cleats for your sister's soccer season? Scheels have made the whole shopping experience an adventure that kids of all ages love, and as parents we want our kids to be happy, so we shop at Scheels! They also have very knowledgeable associates and always provide exceptional levels of service.

Ferris wheel in sporting goods store to entertain customers
A giant Ferris wheel enhances the in-store experience for shoppers at Scheels in Overland Park, KS. Picture courtesy of HER LIFE magazine.

As brick and mortar retail becomes increasingly competitive, multi-site brands are adopting an omnichannel approach and are investing heavily in delivering an incredible in-store experience to their customers. What's the most enjoyable retail experience you have had recently? Were your kids provided with games and snacks at your local Evereve store, or were you able to tryout the latest running shoes on a treadmill at your local sports store? Whatever you experienced, we would love to hear about it so please share your stories in the comments section below.

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