Attracting Consumers with Retailtainment

Modern shoppers want more than to simply buy things when they enter a store. Anyone can sell them products – they want something unique and crave a sense of excitement about being in an inclusive space that encourages discovery; that is not just about a transaction, but an experience. These new values are moving retailers away from traditional stores and locations, and toward creating spaces that have an edge of entertainment.

Meeting modern shoppers’ needs

The primary thing that drives mall shoppers away is that there is a general lack of variability in the type of store they discover in the mall, according to a study conducted by the Verde Group. In addition, modern buyers are spending less on general merchandise and apparel in retail centres. Although it isn’t entirely to blame, online shopping has rose to prominence all over the world –– with online sales projected to grow as much as 16.2 percent in the UK by the end of 2015. The decline in appeal of traditional malls, combined with the steady rise in online shopping, poses a threat to the viability of brick-and-mortar retail as we know it.

Retailtainment, which infuses traditional retail with experience-driven offerings like restaurants, activities, and services that can’t be replicated online, seems to be the answer. By combining entertainment and retail experiences, companies have found the methods they need to get shoppers in their locations and keep them there – spending money.

More than just providing something fun and hands-on for visitors to a retail centre, effective retailtainment opportunities require careful use of activities, sounds, sights and smells to entice buyers to enter and feel relaxed and comfortable in a store. The psychology of ambience and environment has been well studied, and music, lighting and colour all proven to influence consumer behaviour. Competing with more typical forms of entertainment and leisure activities, brands have used bowling alleys, pizza buffets, digital signage in open spaces and movie theatres to create unique audio and visual experiences that attract consumers.


A new take on the shopping mall

A new shopping mall planned in Italy, the Arese Shopping City, will host new types of retailtainment destinations like sports facilities and health centres. By creating a multitude of offerings catering to different needs, the Arese Shopping City is aiming to maximize foot traffic and increase time spent in stores. Other malls, such as the Simon Grapevine Mills Centre in Grapevine, Texas, include blacklight mini-golf, on-campus movie theaters, ice skating rinks, and animal-themed riding devices that you can rent to zip around the centre on, transforming a shopping mall to a day out.

The idea of entertaining your customers is not new. Hamley’s, the oldest and largest toy shop in the world, has been leveraging retailtainment for years –– with a live entertainer at the door, soap bubbles coming out of the shop, and ongoing events to attract kids. M&Ms stores have taken a similar approach, offering a customer experience that mirrors their brand: fun and exciting. And as all parents know, it’s practically impossible to leave Hamley’s without spending money.

Attractions like these have helped to drive foot traffic, increase purchases per person and thus positively impact the success of a retail centre. Having elements of entertainment and retail mixed together within the facility can also bring in tourists in addition to local consumers, increasing conversion rates.


Innovations in real estate

Other businesses have taken notice, and have capitalized on these innovations to reel in new customers of their own. We are witnessing an influx of truly creative ways to attract consumers to brick-and-mortar stores that are also proving their worth.

One approach to providing entertaining and unique retail experiences is to repurpose old non-retail spaces into retailtainment centres. For example, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Ivywild School, built in 1916, has been turned into a brewery, bar, and event space. This approach can be wildly successful, as evidenced by another school building that was converted in Danbury, Iowa, which has seen nearly 34 percent of the town population obtain annual memberships to the new event centre. In London, the Battersea Power Station, a decommissioned coal-fired power station, is being redeveloped into a mixed-use space with housing, retail, and entertainment.  

Proving that technology is not counter to traditional offline channels, many are finding that it can be a huge asset for this trend, with virtual reality, video sets, digital changing rooms and interactive menus have all being used by various brands.


All play and no work?

This represents a change in practice and thinking, and as Nicole Carter of DreamWorks Animation said on the Retailtainment: when shopping malls become amusement parks panel at the 2015 MAPIC “You shouldn’t be concentrated only on ROI, but on the way to provide the best experience for your customers.” The consequence should be increased length of time in store and loyalty, leading to better ROI – but it’s a process.

As exciting as this innovative trend is, it’s crucial for companies and brands to remember to act in accordance with both their own brand values and the needs of their local communities. Retailers must always work to meet the needs of their customers – and right now customer want to shop and enjoy themselves. They call it retailtainment.



Learn more about retailtainment from the experts, pioneers and trendsetters in this space at MAPIC 2016.


Top photo: © Mike Boening 

About Author

Guillaume Damay

MAPIC Conference Manager

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