Experience Retailing Follies

Experience Retailing is all the Rage: Nike Town, in Portland, OR. Sony's store in Boston. Columbia clothing's store in Portland, OR. The LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, ME. Now we have the "Samsung Experience" in NYC. (Check out this nice piece article in ExtremeTech).

I'm an enthusiastic supporter of layering an experience element into a value offering. Managing the brand experience at the retail level enables marketers greater control over the brand; for consumers to encounter the product in a way that resonates with the brand image cultivated through other promotional tools.

Yet, having spent time in the Sony and Nike stores, brands that should have the resources to deploy breathtaking experience retailing installations are stumbling. Also revealed is a possible danger in the experience retailing concept. Specifically: what if the "experience" created by the retail environment doesn't connect with key segments? With advertising, for example, audience segmentation makes it possible to deliver variations on the message. With a retail store, that isn't as easily achieved. Nike Town left me cold; the store's voluminous concrete-urban appearance and baffling floor plan found me shrugging my shoulders. "What's the point?" I wondered. The NikeTown experience didn't mesh with my image of the brand (I bought my first pair of Nikes in 1977). Even worse, I didn't feel like lingering and shopping, just wanted to exit the store. The Sony Store -- in its gleaming chrome and blue -- echoed its advertising, but seemed stale. The Columbia Experience, with the rustic cabin-feel paneling, furniture, and displays resonated nicely with the image Columbia has been carefully cultivating over the years with their very consistent advertising campaign.

Two misses and a hit. About par, I suppose.

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