Consumer expectations have undergone a significant transformation — not only when they are shopping online but also in physical stores.
Offering interesting content and products with a simplified checkout is no longer; today’s consumers crave experiences as unique as their fingerprints — enabling them to engage in personalized journeys that transcend the mundane transactional realm.
Brands and retailers must thus reassess their strategies and prioritize offering holistic shopping experiences to captivate consumers and cultivate enduring loyalty.
Consumers, particularly the younger generations, today prefer experiences over possessions. They crave unique and memorable interactions with brands that go beyond traditional retail transactions. As a result, retailers are faced with the unique challenge of evolving from mere product providers to experience curators. Whether it is through interactive displays, virtual try-ons, or personalized recommendations, they must deliver a shopping journey that resonates with their customers’ lifestyles and values.
In a conversation with Retail Bum, Jill Renslow, chief business development and marketing officer at Mall of America (MOA), delved into the specifics of how the mall is seeking collaboration with brands to ensure a consistent influx of returning shoppers.
“The key is ensuring that we double down on the physical experience. Many brands excel online, but what sets them apart is having a unique presence in the brick-and-mortar space,” said Renslow.
With that said, stepping out of the traditional retail box is essential. This can involve integrating elements such as entertainment, technology, and community engagement into the shopping environment. By creating spaces that offer more than just products for sale, retailers can build emotional connections with their customers.
Thinking outside the box: Barbie’s coffee shop
An illustrative example of this shift is Barbie, which made a significant impact at the box office this year. Surpassing $1.38 billion in global earnings, Barbie has now secured the title of the highest-grossing film in Warner Bros.’ 100-year history. Furthermore, it stands as the highest-grossing film ever directed by a female filmmaker at the domestic box office and is the largest worldwide film release of 2023.
Now, the brand is extending beyond the cinema screen and toy aisles, reimagining the conventional shopping experience through the introduction of a pop-up coffee shop within the Mall of America.
“The opening time is perfect, especially with all the Barbie fans out there. But what’s really fun for us as a brand is to be flexible and bring in experiences that don’t necessarily stay here long term,” said Renslow.
Considering this, the pivotal measure for success in this innovative venture transcends traditional product sales; instead, it revolves around a distinct metric—coffee purchases. By introducing a coffee shop experience, Barble not only aligns with the expanding coffee culture but also converts the shopping excursion into a social and pleasurable event.
Measuring success beyond the typical sale
Keeping this in perspective, Renslow emphasizes that brands and retailers should shift their focus away from merely tracking conventional metrics such as sales revenue and foot traffic.
Far too many brands today gauge their success by the extent of consumer engagement and the establishment of enduring brand connections. Barbie’s coffee shop example, however, shows that the triumph of their initiative is not just contingent on the number of products sold but is also intricately linked to the positive interactions, shared moments, and overall ambiance cultivated within the coffee shop.
Renslow pointed out that retail brands have an opportunity to create similar compelling experiences at the MOA. Today, the mall boasts a substantial visitor base, reaching an annual count of 32 million. This is significantly influenced by the inclusion of a seven-acre theme park on the property, contributing to the venue’s unique character.
The mall’s diverse data collection methods can further help elevate customer experiences and operational efficiency. For example, tracking traffic through car counters and people counters provides valuable insights into daily, weekly, and seasonal trends, as well as the impact of external variables. Wi-Fi data within the property further assists in understanding customer frequencies, origins, and preferences. Moreover, digital directories offer insights into customer searches, brand combinations, and sought-after brands that are currently absent.
That said, understanding shopping patterns, preferences, and spending habits for tailoring the customer journey in physical environments is going to be critical for retail brands.
“At Mall of America, the objective is to attract eyeballs and generate brand exposure. The crucial element is creating a fan experience, allowing sales associates to engage with guests and cultivate relationships—something that cannot be replicated online,” said Renslow.
Photo credit: Barbie