Bricks-and-mortar retailers in particular can struggle against their online counterparts – but technology is turning the advantage back in favour of physical stores.
Technologies and strategies are enabling traditional retailers to compete in the digital space through the use of experiential marketing.
In essence, experiential marketing involves appealing to your consumer’s senses and engaging with them in a range of ways that create a thoroughly memorable and enjoyable purchasing experience.
And while retailers seem the most obvious choice, experiential marketing has applications for a wide range of businesses – including gyms and hotels for starters.
It’s something that Steve Hughes, managing director of sensory marketing firm Mood Media Australia, knows only too well.
“The idea for us when we talk to brands is ... we ask them several questions, and the first question might be, ‘What do you want your brand to sound like?’,” he explains.
“Just putting on a radio station, quite often you find a lot of repetition in songs, for a start. And the songs that may play from the radio don't always fit with that brand and what the brand should actually be playing.
“So obviously identifying some of the demographics they may have; maybe female skewed or male skewed, certain age groups for example, and from that you start drilling down into the type of music that may be relevant to be played in the business premises.”
However, experiential marketing involves a great deal more than simply what music you have playing in customer-facing areas of your premises. Increasingly, mobile and digital technologies are being employed to engage customers in ways never previously thought possible.
“Recent studies show about 58 per cent of people with smartphones have used smartphones to buy in-store,” says Steve.
“If you're in a store, you want to engage with the shopper in the store, and you can do so by, I suppose, sending a message to their phone somehow.”
The benefit in delivering this type of marketing, says Steve, is that you can create highly personalised messaging for each customer and each store or premises you may have.
“A good idea would be the use of a coupon, for example, which they would then go to the counter with the good that they're purchasing and get, say, 20 per cent off, that kind of thing,” notes Steve.
He adds that another example is a department store holding in-store fashion shows, and customers can hold their phones up to the models on the catwalk to receive details on the maker, sizing, colours and pricing of the garments on display.
“It's a fun way of retailers engaging with their customers in the store while they are actually walking around and purchasing goods in that store.”