Fake Retail Experiences Are Dead: How to Be an Authentic Retailer

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Fake Retail Experiences Are Dead: How to Be an Authentic Retailer

Jul 23, 2019 / By Danny Saba

We’ve been rethinking… what’s trending in the retail industry?

Experience, experience, experience. From the National Retail Foundation, to Forbes, major publications and industry bodies rank experiential retail high on their lists of trends (re)shaping the industry.

But, as we stop to reflect mid-way through 2019, there seems to be a change of course. Experiential retail is on the rise, yes, but there’s one distinguishing factor between those implementing it successfully.

It’s whether or not the experience ties back to the brand in an authentic way. Retailers who tack on an experience simply to get attention, drive sales or stay relevant – or who use tech like AR, VR or MR simply because it’s new and flashy – aren’t delivering what their customers expect.

We conducted a research piece for one of our clients in the retail sector. It studied over 1,000 US consumers buying habits and preferences and found that product inspiration (39%) and exclusive products and experiences (38%) are the top reason for consumers to visit a physical retail store. Compare that to the bottom reason, in-store entertainment (16%), and this contrast between an experience for entertainment’s sake versus one that ties back to the brand in an authentic way becomes apparent.

This aspect of cultivating an authentic retail experience is more than just industry talk – it’s here to stay. Brands being genuine and human was the top takeaway from Cannes 2019.

So, fake retail experiences are dead (ciao!). Here’s a selection of real ones we’re tracking in the news:


Nike’s new flagship store in NYC features a slew of mobile app enabled features making it easier and faster for shoppers to find out more about their favorite items and make a purchase. There’s also the Nike Speed Shop on the ground floor giving customers a quick glimpse of what’s popular with NYC shoppers. And the entrance to the store, dubbed the Nike Arena, features the Sport Beacon, a visual and sonic installation inspired by New York City, with a combination of seasonal and sport-inspired storytelling moments. Aptly named the Nike House Of Innovation, the new store drives home what makes Nike, well Nike.

Alexander McQueen

In what could easily be mistaken for a museum, Alexander McQueen’s new flagship store celebrates the brand’s history by letting shoppers explore the brand’s most iconic looks from current collections and archives. There’s also a space dedicated to in-store events, focusing on exhibitions and talks for fashion students. It’s an elegant, experiential design store concept that focusses on bringing together the fashion community in a very human way. No flashy tech (because they don’t need it), just real conversations and inspiring fashion.


At Macy’s, there’s a different STORY going on. It’s a new store concept; STORY is a boutique installation akin to a magazine-style monthly rotation of merchandise based on a theme. It creates a different atmosphere for consumers to discover products they might not have otherwise thought to consider and gives shoppers a unique reason to come back to the physical brick-and-mortar space. This STORY concept takes what a department store brand is known for – stocking a vast variety of brands and products – and puts a new, experiential spin on it. That’s what retail should be about.

The brands that achieve authenticity in this way – along with the businesses and agencies that help them do so – will satisfy shifting consumer demand and continue to push the entire industry forward.

As specialists in the loyalty and retail sectors, we’ve spent years developing knowledge about our clients’ target markets and rapidly changing industries, and witnessed the incredible shift from physical to online to converging omnipresent experiences. From our conversations with loyalty and retail technology clients, to our media monitoring and ongoing research, we’re able to dig deep into their their pain points as well as their customers’ pain points. That’s how we develop strategies and effective content to help them drive real business growth. Because isn’t that what we’re all here for? Of course it is.

We’ll keep a close eye on how this trend pans out. Stay tuned (and authentic) with us.

Danny Saba

Danny Saba
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