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6 Retailers That Went Experiential In 2018

This article is part of our November 2018 series about the state of retail. Click here for more.

Retailers realize they have to compete for every shopper. While many continue to spend huge sums on TV campaigns, experiential marketing adds a buzz factor that gets consumers talking about old brands in new ways.

Overall, more than a third of CMOs said they plan to spend 21% to 50% of their budgets on brand experiences during the next several years, according to the 2017 Freeman Global Brand Experience Study. Such experiences include trade shows, sponsorships, exhibits, virtual or augmented reality experiences, and pop-up stores, among other methods of outreach.

As the list below shows, many retailers have been dabbling with experiential over the past year. We take a look.

Amazon’s Jurassic Unboxing
The giant e-tailer made a splash when it delivered a 40-foot-long box to The Grove in Los Angeles. It looked like a standard Amazon delivery box, only larger. Amazon also included a SmileCode. When users scanned the code (with Amazon’s app), it led to a landing page with a video and discounted tickets to the film “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom.” If users asked Amazon Alexa “What’s in the box?” they heard dinosaur sounds. An unboxing by the movie’s stars, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, revealed that a model T. Rex was inside. For Amazon, the move was a nod to the fact that its brown cardboard boxes are as much a part of its branding as Alexa’s voice.

Walmart Goes VR
Walmart announced in September its plan for employee training to incorporate virtual reality (VR). All of its supercenters were sent four VR headsets; the retailer is using the training to emulate real-life situations and teach more than 1 million of its sales associates about new technologies. According to a Bloomberg report, Walmart’s vision for VR goes beyond employee training: The retailer applied for patents for technologies supporting a virtual showroom where shoppers could grab items off the virtual shelves that would then be sent to their real homes.

William-Sonoma’s Next-Gen Pottery Barn App
When William-Sonoma purchased a 3D imaging and augmented reality startup for $112 million late last year, the retailer’s commitment to immersive retail experiences became clear to the industry. The company has been hard at work ever since, developing experiences for its customers that transcend traditional retail experiences. For example, the company launched an augmented reality app for its Pottery Barn and PBteen brands that lets users drag and drop items in a room to see how they work with existing furniture and decor, or users can competely empty a room to start the design process from scratch. Shoppers can purchase the items they like right from the app. 

Nordstrom’s Manhattan Men’s Store
The retailer’s latest store lets visitors navigate their experiences via a mobile app. Shoppers select what they’d like to try on, and Nordstrom sets up a dressing room in advance. Shoppers can also order cocktails or coffee while they try on their clothes. Anyone who thinks department stores are passé should look at Nordstrom, which has managed to use technology and a commitment to the customer experience to evolve its brand in the digital age.

Nike’s Interactive Lockers
A new Nike store in Melrose in Los Angeles includes “digital lockers” that customers can access using QR codes. Consumers who buy shoes online can pick them from the lockers, which look and act much like vending machines. Amazon has a similar technology that offers an alternative for consumers who for whatever reason don’t want items delivered to their doors.

L’Occitane’s Unique Flagship Store
The French beauty brand’s new flagship store in Manhattan features an area dedicated to social media, including a live feed of its U.S Instagram account. Shoppers can also “bike through Provence” with stationary bikes against a screen showing the French countryside. The brand also customers offers a VR-enabled hot air balloon ride through its home country, along with a real-life hand massage that uses L’Occitane products.

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