Suzanne Malhotra, Director of 4D, discusses the latest trends in retail and how their migration into events could help improve the way exhibition experiences are designed.
Retail has had a reinvention and the trends and experiences coming to the fore are easily transferable to other physical branded spaces, such as exhibitions.
In-store retail experiences
Retail stores that provide unique in-store experiences have thrived and exhibitors who can create this type of mini-event within their exhibition stand will see similar success.
At shows and in stores, the aim is to create not just a shopping space but a complete brand destination. This setup allows all of a brand’s values; transparency, quality, humour, history and so on to transverse the event and become nested in the attendee’s experience. When an attendee is able to pick up a product, play with it, walk around with it and share it with their friends or colleagues a moment is made.
This type of in-store experience is much more valuable than the past product-led stands, or static demo pod exhibition spaces where visitors are expected to passively absorb the experience.
Event attendees now more than ever, are ready to embrace the exhibition experience and enter with all senses ready, thanks to the rise of in-store experiences which champion the same.
New IoT start ups are entering the market, allowing retail stores to track footfall by smartphone, or even by shoes, ensuring that privacy and data can co-exist. This level of tracking allows brands to personalise their offering, providing a better overall experience for the visitor they truly understand.
In the event world, attendee tracking has long been coveted as a way of proving offline ROI and ensuring that the promised footfall of an event is delivered.
As well as tracking visitors, monitoring systems can also be implemented that track interaction with physical products, measuring dwell time, physical interaction and even biometric response. This type of data is invaluable, not only to the product or software feedback cycle, but also to ensuring that the event is measurable at every step of the way.
Transparency in retail
It’s no surprise that audiences favour retail brands who can provide transparency above many other aspects. The beauty of the internet is our access to real time data and reviews on the companies we wish to do business with.
Within the exhibition space, the same is true. Often, a brand will be judged not only on its stand presence but by its alignment with the company mission, its social media channels and its social corporate responsibility. All of these aspects can be subtly approached with the right stand design and how the design works. Yet at many events, these core messages are lost within layers of design which fail to be meaningful.
Creating a brand that can be tested by an audience, within a live environment, and which can do business on the show floor at the same time, will be a highly valued asset in the year ahead.
The needs of the modern consumer mean that stores are increasingly becoming phygital environments, where the physical experience and the online destination are paired as one. This can easily be built into a seamless exhibition experience, within a physical stand space that allows visitors to dip into digital channels as and when needed.
Phygital elements include mobile activations, where a visitor can use their smartphone against a beacon or interactive screen, to allow them to share, view and browse information. Stand-centric apps may also make a come back, as visitors become used to interacting with the space around them using their smartphone. The internet of things (IoT) will also contribute to a phygital setup, where simple devices and items such as fridges, bars and tables can adapt themselves to the need of the attendee.
Taking the in-store experience one step further is the rise of retailtainment. This trend allows retail brands to create theatre out of the store experience. This allows shoppers to get more from their experience than just purchases alone. Perhaps they have chance to try a new VR headset, view recommendations from a brand influencer or even have a coffee with friends.
In retailtainment, the onus is on creating an experience or a moment, therefore rewarding the visitor heavily for their visit and ensuring that there is more than one element they can take away.
Retailtainment also has the power to go viral across online channels, with shoppers keen to share their experiences, often in real time. In exhibition spaces, the merge of the primary experience with a secondary element infuses the visitor’s journey and similarly rewards their time.
This is why the Samsung VR theatre, among others, is so incredibly popular at events such as Mobile World Congress. If you could enter an event and experience a theatre, film, book launch, tea party, drinks reception and educational seminar all in one, why wouldn’t you?