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Friday, October 25, 2019

Experiential Retailing - Can It Help Offline Stores? by John Gironda * [16]

                         Image source: Tim Nichols (2014) – “Experiential Marketing on The High Street” (ExactDrive™).

The growth of online shopping has led many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to create and emphasize unique in-store shopping activities and experiences as a way to compete with online retailers. This is known as experiential retailing, and the idea behind this trend is that the one thing online retailers can’t offer is the in-store experience. Therefore, if offline stores can develop truly interesting, entertaining, and/or one-of-a-kind shopping activities/experiences, that would be one way to effectively compete.

There are a number of examples of companies engaging in experiential retailing. For instance, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World superstores feature a number of attractions that make each store a unique destination, such as indoor waterfalls, gigantic aquariums, archery ranges, and ponds with fish native to the store’s area. In addition, the stores hold a number of demonstrations and workshops that teach customers a variety of skills related to outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, and water safety. Another outdoor recreation company, REI offers climbing walls at some of its stores, for patrons to try out and practice their rock climbing skills. In addition, Dick’s Sporting Goods offers a golf simulator for shoppers to try out any of their golf clubs on a number of virtual holes before purchasing them. On the simulator, the customer hits an actual golf ball and then a large projection screen shows the flight of the ball through the air, as well as where it lands. In addition to displaying this, the simulator also provides a number of useful metrics, such as ball distance, speed, launch angle, and spin, to further help customers decide if the club they’re using is the right one for them. 

Sporting goods and outdoor oriented stores aren’t the only ones engaging in experiential retailing. Many other brick-and-mortar retailers are starting to use technology to create a personalized shopping experience for customers. For example, many companies such as Target offer mobile apps that allow shoppers to see if an item is available at a particular store, and if so tell them the exact location of that item within that store. In addition, other retailers including Timberland, are beginning to employ the use of augmented reality systems in their offline stores, to allow customers to virtually try on clothing and accessories, as well as instantly mix and match various combinations of shirts, pants, shoes, etc.  Neiman Marcus has also developed the “Memory Mirror” shopping assistant, which allows shoppers trying on various items to view them on a large video screen from any angle, as well as instantly change an items color, or see the way different outfits look in side-by-side comparisons:

Since many of these retailers’ items can be purchased online, companies are hoping that by offering these extra experiences, it will encourage consumers to go and shop at their physical stores. Obviously online shopping is here to stay and will most likely continue to keep growing well into the future. However, experiential retailing does show promise in helping offline retailers to still have a relevant place in consumers’ shopping habits.

What do you think of experiential retailing? Do you think it’s a viable technique for allowing offline stores to better compete with online shopping? Are there any other examples of experiential retailing that you’ve recently seen in action? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

John Gironda, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. His teaching and research interests include digital and social media marketing, consumer behavior, marketing strategy, advertising, personal selling, and sales management. He can be reached at:


  1. This article really reminds me of a concept I learned about in a consumer behavior course regarding utilitarian value versus hedonic value. Utilitarian value refers to the practicality or usefulness of an experience or product, while hedonic value refers to the experience as a whole. This article shows that by increasing the hedonic value of the offline store by adding to the experience of visiting the store itself, the company will experience an increase in success of the brick and mortar store.

  2. This is a very interesting article. Throughout the years, online shopping has really taken over, with shoppers preferring to online shop in the comfort of their own home. Black Friday was once a huge holiday, but more people are opting to participate in cyber Monday. While I do think that experiential retailing may make stores seem more appealing to shoppers, I'm not sure if it will make that much of a difference, as I believe online shopping will only grow from here.

  3. This article does a good job of highlighting the rise of online shopping and how certain businesses like Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World and Dick's Sporting Goods are responding to the online shopping wave. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World's ranges and aquarium have always interested me every time I have gone.

  4. I agree with the premise of this article, but I believe there may be another extreme. While a store like Bass Pro Shops may attract customers with a waterfall, there is still a category of customers who care much more about price and do not mind purchasing a jacket on Amazon. That is where Walmart, for example, would step in and offer an extremely similar quality jacket for a very similar price. The stores that might suffer will be the ones in the middle of the two extremes, where they do not attract customers with experiential retailing, and cannot compete with the lower prices of online shopping.

    Secondly, my own experiences with experiential learning can at times end with an online shopping purchase. If I wanted a golf club, for example, I can go to Dicks Sporting Goods and test different brands, with zero obligation to purchase the product. I could then find the product online for a lower price, and immediately have it delivered to my house. If the price is close I will buy at the store since they gave me the convenience to try it out, but if it is not a fair fight, I would not be doing my job as a consumer correctly. Eventually, supply and demand always wins.

    I agree that experiential retailing can save offline stores, but it needs to be completed in the correct fashion, and even that may not be enough.

  5. I enjoyed reading this article. Over the years, customers have shifted to online shopping so experimental retailing for offline retailers seems like a smart way to compete with online stores. The stores provided were all good examples of how experimental retailing can make a difference in the market. Some products require an experience like that to lead to a sale. Another example i can think of is the VR game simulation in Best Buy stores. Before purchasing a VR, a customer can actually try it, which i think can potentially lead to more sales. That being said, online shopping nowadays is easier and more practical in most cases so the competition will be tough.

  6. Experiental retailing could influence customers to shop in offline stores so that they could experience any cool and exciting things. However, I still believe that online shopping will still become more popular than going to the mall and shopping for four hours holding numerous bags.

  7. I think experiential retailing is a very good way to modernize companies. It offers intriguing technology to draw in customers and publicize their company more so. Having things like the virtual golf course at Dick’s sporting goods is something that can be portrait online as an activity to visit the store. Through activities like this I believe that it does somewhat compete with online shopping. Some experiential retailing I have seen is in a Khol’s where you can order online in store. This might seem contradictory but for people who are ordering a lot or their item is not in store it proves to be useful.

  8. Experiential retailing is a great thing to do because it will get customers to go into stores instead of staying home and shopping on their computers. It is a viable technique for offline stores to compete with online shopping because it will let customers have a greater and better experience in store and bring more people in to shop. One great example would be IKEA. There is a lot of amazing things you can do there such as testing out things there and cheap good food, but the downside is walking through the whole store to get out.

  9. I definitely think that as technology grows, it becomes harder and harder for brick-and-mortar type of stores to keep up. This is why I think that they are moving in the right direction by implementing Experiential Retailing. People come to expect that you have some type of tech-savvy guide or board (or whatever can be found in a particular store) or else the store feels outdated or not "in" with what is currently happening. Especially for certain types of stores, I personally feel like there are stuff I need to try in the store, such as clothes, and I really like the idea from Timberland that let's you virtually try on designs.

  10. This article has perfectly described the affected traditional brick-and-mortar retailers due to the growth of online shopping. The technology has changed consumer’s lifestyle also their shopping style. Nowadays, most people will prefer ordering stuff online and get it after a few days instead of going to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. However, I still believe that experiential retailing will definitely be a pro of the conventional stores and bring back some consumers.

  11. Well, I can't say for sure if experiential retailing will be able to compete with the ease of online shopping, but I will certainly tell you as a consumer and a collector, there is nothing quite like the joy and nostalgia you feel when you find the item you're looking for "in the wild," so to speak. Going to the store can be fun when the store provides a pleasant experience, so there is certainly something to be said about experiential retailing.

    In my personal experience, I collect things like old Star Wars figures that are no longer found in major stores like Target or Walmart. It is easy to go online and find what I'm looking for at a semi-decent price, but there is something special about going to an antique mall or a mom and pop style comic book shop and finding it there by chance, like it was meant to happen. Major stores can certainly be drab and cramped, but comic book stores like my personal favorite "Tate's Comics" near my house is an example of experiential retailing because of all of the almost exhibit-like displays they use for their merchandise. Every franchise has a section of the store dedicated to it, and it sets up the collectibles by type and age. Larger items like a life-sized Incredible Hulk or Han Solo in carbonite are spectacles on their own. Wandering the store is half the fun, or sometimes all the fun. I usually go just for the feeling of being among these things that bring me such nostalgia and rarely end up leaving with a full wallet.

    All of that said, I have no idea if brick and mortar stores can compete this way, especially in this age of convenience and mechanical interactions. The personal, intimate consumer experience has lost value to many people, but it will always have a niche in the hearts of some people.

  12. Although people much prefer to shop online now for its convenience, experiential retailing allows shoppers to create memorable experiences and create a direct relationship with the company that will help further increase consumer loyalty. It simply offers more than online stores can. Yet, most people including myself aren’t looking to create experiences because they’d rather save time on the commute to stores as well as its increased convenience. There are also more options when it comes to online shopping. I am able to find specialty items on the internet. There have been several moments when I’d scroll through a company’s website and see that various items are sold “Online only.” I do think that it depends on what item a consumer wants. I would much rather go to a store and get the experiential experience if I was shopping for clothes since there are fitting rooms.

  13. I decided to comment on this post because we are two years into COVID-19 and the world has changed around us. Reading the comments above some has said that experiential retail didn't stand much of a chance compared to online sales. Taking a look at our current situation I would say there is some truth to that being that online and "contactless" forms of payment and delivery has exploded. But as we stable in our "new normal" experiential sales/retail is making a come back. Most find it pleasing since its something we haven't seen in awhile. A large effect that certainly does push people online to make the purchase in my opinion.


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