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The holiday shopping season is almost here and if 2017 was an indicator of how 2018 will be, retailers and brands can expect consumer expectations to be high.  Let’s face it, most consumers don’t actually enjoy the in-store shopping experience during the holidays, hence the reason so many turn to the convenience of online shopping.  But there is good news for retail stores, according to Natural Insight’s 2018 In-Store Holiday Shopping report, 88% of consumers will head to a physical store this year, a slight increase over last year.

So what can physical retailers do to stand out, attract customers, and turn those customers into loyalists?  Today’s consumers want experiences.  They don’t go to the mall or a store and fight traffic just to buy a product and leave immediately afterward.  They want to be entertained, they want retailtainment, also known as experiential retail.

What is Experiential Retail?

Experiential retail stems from experiential marketing.  The implementation of experiential tactics in the retail industry seems to be catching on as more and more retailers are realizing that this may be their saving grace.  In fact, the Future of Retail 2018 reports that 55% of retail executives surveyed stated that by 2020 in-store experiences would be included in their marketing budgets.  Experiential retail combines shopping with entertaining, unique, and memorable experiences.  It attracts customers, makes them linger, engages multiple senses, and creates two-way conversations which form deeper connections between customers and retailers.

Who Can Benefit from Experiential Retail this Holiday Season?

Experiential retail can benefit retailers and brands, of any size, and with any budget.  It works because it generates buzz, creates awareness, increases loyalty, and gives customers something to talk about and better yet, something to share.  It’s all about creating an experience that customers will enjoy, whether it’s an interactive product demonstration or simply offering a place for customers to relax.

7 Experiential Retail Ideas for Black Friday and Beyond

Host an In-Store Event or Promotion

In-store events and promotions attract customers and get them in your store, which is always a win during the holiday season.  To drive people to your event, offer exclusive discounts or freebies, provide snacks and/or beverages, and host activities for all ages.  Last year, Wal-Mart hosted 20,000-holiday parties to drive people to their stores.  The themed parties focused on toys, gift-giving, and party-planning.  Additionally, customers could check out product demonstrations, take selfies with Santa, and try out the hottest gifts of the year.

Pop-Up Shops

Pop-up shops have become a popular option for both brick-and-mortar retailers and eCommerce stores because they not only offer the surprise and delight factor that customers love, but they they also drive brand exposure and increase customer engagement.  Retailers love them because they can be tailored to get exactly what they want (or need) out of the pop-up, whether it’s driving awareness for the brand, offering specialty merchandise, or testing a new concept or product.

Offer an Interactive Experience

Consumers are constantly looking for exciting and interactive experiences to participate in.  Interactive elements come in many different forms, making it suitable for any retailer.   Anything that is hands-on and gets people interacting with your brand is what you want to aim for.  This can include things like virtual reality, art installations, product demonstrations, or something simple, like a photo booth or prize wheel.

Give Customers a Place to Recharge

The hustle and bustle of holiday shopping can be draining.  Give your customers a place to relax and recharge.  You can create a spa-like experience by offering comfortable seating, phone charging stations, relaxing music, and light snacks and beverages.  For one, they will appreciate the break, and two, it will keep them in your store a little longer, giving you the chance to make an impression.

Incorporate Technology

Technology continues to change our daily lives, including how we shop.  We now have access to mobile apps that help us locate products in-store, allow us to shop at home and pick up in the store parking lot, and give us discount offers.  Technology can also be used in experiential retail.  RFID technology, touch screen directories, and interactive mirrors are just a few of the many technology-driven initiatives that retailers are experimenting with.  Kate Spade New York teamed up with PERCH to allow consumers to customize the Make it Mine line of handbags.  As customers pick up a bag in the store, PERCH technology detects which bag they have chosen and displays all the customizable options for that particular bag, making the experience seamless.

Get Personal

There are many ways to make the in-store experience a little more personalized.  My favorite local boutique offers a personal shopper the moment you walk in the door, for free.  For people like myself who don’t particularly enjoy shopping in-store, this is one thing that keeps me coming in.  The Adidas flagship store in Midtown New York offers the ultimate personalized experience.  Customers can get a customized jersey made in the screen print shop, test out running shoes by taking a run on the miniature track and get their stride analyzed all in one spot.  All of those personal touches add up and create connections that resonate with shoppers.  Even little things like loyalty programs and name recognition go a long way with customers.

Holiday Staffing Considerations

Who you have representing your store or brand is just as important as the tactics you choose to execute.  You can have the biggest, boldest, most shareable experience on the planet, but if your staff falls short, so will your efforts.  Many retailers employ temporary sales associates during the busy holiday season, which is beneficial on many levels.  However, if you are incorporating any type of experiential element, you’ll want to consider hiring experienced experiential marketing staff.  Experiential staff, like brand ambassadors and product specialists, know how to attract and engage consumers on a more personal level.  They know how to initiate conversations while subtly relaying key messaging which elevates the overall experience for customers.


In order for retailers to succeed during this lucrative shopping season, they must be willing to take a big step outside of the box and provide shoppers with a memorable experience.  Something that makes the dreaded holiday shopping season fun again.

ATN Event Staffing can provide you with brand ambassadors, experiential marketing staff, product specialists, product demonstrators, and in-store event staff to make your holiday experiential retail campaign a success.  We offer top-tier talent in cities nationwide and can execute multi-market campaigns and large-scale programs seamlessly.  Since 2002, brands, agencies, and retailers have counted on ATN to be their trusted experiential marketing staffing partner.

Experiential Event Staffing Gurus Since 2002