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HomeINDUSTRY INSIGHTWhy are retailers investing in experiential fit-outs?

Why are retailers investing in experiential fit-outs?

Experiential retail encourages consumers to engage with a brand, and its products, in a meaningful and unique way in a physical space. It gives shoppers the information they need to make a purchase, and ideally, spend more. It also promotes the brand and aims to strengthen the relationship between retailer and consumer. 

Here, we talk to designers and architectures about their thoughts on an engaging retail space.

“Create a visit so memorable that the customer doesn’t want to leave after the purchase is over. These trends allow retailers to prove that they understand the customer on a personal level and can connect with them in a way that can’t be done online,” says Totalretail.com technology expert Martin Kurpiel.

An experiential retail strategy may mean less focus on sales but get those other strategies right and the outcome will still
be purchases.

“It’s less about transaction and more about repeat customers, repeat sales, word of mouth, organic growth, organic sales. That’s by creating that customer relationship, and listening to what the customer wants and providing solutions for what they want,” says Lizzi Whaley CEO of commercial interior design studio Spaceworks.

Last year Spaceworks designed the interior of the Barker’s Foodstore & Eatery in Geraldine, a concept experiential store with a cafe which opened in September. It showcases the 50-year-old Kiwi brand’s jams, chutneys, condiments and syrups. There are tasting areas and the cafe, which seats 100 people, uses Barker’s products. 

“The experience is sensory, it’s taste, it’s smell. It [shows] you how you can use the product and how you can get people engaged with buying their product,” Whaley says.

A good experiential fit-out gives retailers the chance to offer a unique experience that is impossible to replicate online, says Simon Hall, a principal and director at architects Jerram Tocker Barron.

“Look at what is differentiating your marketplace [and] the online marketplace. People buy products not necessarily because of what it is but what it represents, and how it’s perceived. That’s the power of creating a strong retail experience spatially, it can add to that.”

A “plain Jane, very impersonalised” environment will devalue a product or brand, Hall says: “You run the risk of trying to compete with online.”

Hall is the architect behind Pic’s Peanut Butter World in Nelson. The 3500sqm space houses the Pic’s factory and office headquarters as well as a cafe and retail space. It won ‘Hottest fit-out’ in 2019’s Gem Retail Hotlist. 

Hall calls it “a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory experience” that aims to capture both the brand’s “fun and playful side” as well as its honesty – “it’s literally just peanuts”. 

This includes quirky design features like the red path, a navigational device that rolls “like a tongue” from the carpark, leading visitors into and through the building. Visitors can see peanut butter being made, get hands-on making their own, and learn about owner Pic Picot’s journey. The result is a “genuine but expressive experience”, says Hall. 

An experiential fit-out should still look good enough to be Instagram-worthy but in 2020, a more subtle approach is definitely better than being blatant. Ultimately, it’s still a free tool and a way that businesses can get free marketing, word-of-mouth, at a much greater reach and penetration into the market.

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