In the 90s, Abercrombie & Fitch introduced us to a unique shopping experience unlike any we’d seen before, with their loud music, fragrance-filled stores, and imagery to promote the preppy-cool vibe a teenage audience craved.

While A&F came under fire for discriminatory hiring and other problematic business practices in the early 2000s, they still taught us something about retail marketing:

shopping as an immersive experience can result in more sales and greater brand awareness

While we’ve learned from A&F’s mistakes, we must give credit where credit is due.

They knew what they were doing.

Providing an experience that tickles all the senses was a retail coup that kept them on top of the clothing world for most of a decade. But that was then, in a time before online shopping and global competition.

How do retail businesses compete now?

Taking an immersive approach, today’s retail stores have more tools at their disposal than ever before.

Experiential marketing

There’s something online retailers can never totally provide customers—real-life experiences.

No matter how good the online discount, or the customer service, or the final product, it’s still a digital experience that can’t tickle the sense of smell or touch. Consumers can’t feel the softness of the T-shirt, or smell the spiciness of the cologne. These are things retail stores can use to their advantage. So how do you get them in the door to experience your wares and the vibe your business projects?

Local Relevance = Local Interest

First of all, mobilize your website. If people are out and about and are looking for just the thing your store sells, they’re going to search for locations near them to find it. By having your site mobile-friendly, you don’t have to talk someone into leaving their house to come visit. Chances are, they’re around the corner and your proximity will make your location convenient to check out when they land on your site.

LISTEN NOW: How to Use Mobile Marketing in Your Physical Retail Store

There’s a growing push to keep economies strong by buying locally wherever people can. You can appeal to that desire by using targeted, hyper-local keywords for your specific city or neighborhood. Broadcasting your street name or neighborhood as part of a marketing campaign tells locals you know the area and are there to strengthen it with your business. Use local information in your hashtags, bios, and social media profiles. Create landing pages targeted specifically to locals to appeal to their specific needs and interests and promote events in which your business participates. By promoting your town and local culture, you’ll rank higher in local searches, which raises your online presence to the people who benefit most: your neighbors.

When Customers Shop In Person

Okay, so you’ve captured the interest of shoppers nearby who have found your store. How do you wow them?

Create an experience they’ll want to repeat.

Make them feel welcome with a message to their smartphone as soon as they enter the store, perhaps offering an enticing discount, or simply a hello.

Offer rewards for completing tasks while they’re inside your establishment. How about a coupon code for taking a selfie with the latest tech gadget you’re offering?

Provide a distraction for people waiting. Lines can be mindless, irritating things. While it’s good for you to have a line of customers with an armload of your products, it’s tedious for them. Give people waiting for an open register something funny to read, humorous gifs sent to their phones, or information about a new promotion you have coming up. For clothing retailers, providing a distraction for someone waiting outside a changing room for a companion could ease the boredom and make customers happier spending more time in your store.

Deploy beacons about products displayed around the store. A bookstore could have a beacon—a small Bluetooth enabled piece of tech that sends a one-way signal to smartphones within a specified, usually small, radius—in the mystery section that gives a person entering that aisle the latest mystery releases from popular authors. The types of messages beacons send are endless, from information about upcoming events to product descriptions and new release items.

Speed up the payment process by offering contactless payment. With the increasing security of payment methods like Apple Pay and Android Pay, people are waving their devices faster than they can swipe a credit or debit card. Not only does it make the lines go faster, it results in more seamless interaction with the brand as a whole. It means they can enjoy their purchases that much sooner.

Provide detailed parking and information. If your store is in a crowded area or inside an area shopping mall, you want customers to find you easily. For people who are in a hurry or just want to run in and out, parking on the wrong side of a massive parking lot makes for an annoying walk to get to your store. If they arrive sweaty and scowling, you and your employees need to work that much harder to make them happy they came. For people needing assistance in other ways, it provides clear intent on your part to make their visit as easy and convenient as possible.

By giving as much information as you can in creative and unique ways, you’ll give your customers something to remember. If you think of each interaction as an experience you can provide, you’re giving your brand a range of opportunities beyond the visual to make a good impression and turn the curious into loyal customers.

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