With leisure outlets challenging hegemony of retailers, brands need to play part in enriching shopping experiences, says Conversity


Evolution of consumer habits means brands need to ensure they lead the way in customer experience, says Dave Stark, CEO of Conversity

As online shopping becomes an increasingly dominant force in the retail world, many shopping centres are introducing leisure outlets – such as crazy golf and escape rooms – into their environments, in a bid to encourage consumer spending by providing them with a richer, all-round experience. For retail technology expertConversity, this growing trend for leisure activities to challenge the position of traditional retailers should urge brands to play more of a direct part in engaging with customers and driving long-term loyalty.

The ease and convenience of online shopping has evident appeal to the modern, always-on consumer, which explains why a trip to a shopping centre may not be as alluring as it once was. However, the popularity of leisure activities and a generally more entertaining experience represents a significant opportunity for brands to enter this fold, and reduce their reliance on third-party retailers in promoting their brand image.

Dave Stark, CEO of Conversity, said: “The modern-day consumer is a much different person to who they were ten or fifteen years ago. Simply offering a retail store that does the bare minimum is no longer sufficient for many would-be customers, who will have little incentive to leave their homes if they can find everything they need online. Remaining competitive is about doing that something extra to ensure a positive, noteworthy customer experience, and this is where brands can really take charge of their own destiny.

“One of the ways brands can achieve this is by engaging in concerted efforts to open their own stores. In doing so, they can bring themselves closer to their customers by focusing in-store experiences on a particular flagship product or range that resonates strongly with consumer demand. Visitors to a store could, for example, receive in-depth product demonstrations, specialist advice and needs-based product recommendations that they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. The use of technologies such as VR and AR to create a more immersive experience will also ensure a prospective customer has a memorable time trying out products. This brings an element of theatre, which encourages footfall and then gets people talking about the brand.”

Stark believes that this does not mean an end to relationships between brands and retailers by any means, but should instead help to strengthen these ties, as well as a brand’s overall strategy.

He added: “There are few brands that don’t rely on strong relationships with retailers in order to sell products and promote their brand message, and these connections will remain an integral part of the retail ecosystem. Opening their own stores will enable brands to complement this existing situation, by tapping into a clear appetite amongst consumers for some kind of leisure activity or novel experience when they visit a shopping centre.”

To make such initiatives a success, and to ensure brand messaging and key themes are communicated consistently, Stark believes that brands would benefit from adopting innovative technologies designed to create an informative customer experience, such as intelligent guided selling.

He said: “Intelligent guided selling can be instrumental in making sure that a brand is represented in a clear, consistent manner across all sales channels, whether this be in-store or online. The technology works by empowering sales staff to gently guide customers to the product that is best aligned to their personal needs, thereby enhancing the element of theatre that the brand aims to provide. Marketing efforts have this goal of consistency of messaging very much in mind, so having a helping hand in standardising an exceptional brand experience is crucial.”

He concluded: “Retailers are clearly facing a catalogue of challenges when it comes to persuading customers to visit stores. However, brands themselves have the power to be key players in helping the market to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour. By seizing the initiative and combining fresh approaches to fostering customer loyalty with technology, brands can ensure that their legacies are secure for the years to come.”