The Future of Retail Events JOIN THE DOTS

Heightened expectations

The world in which we live is changing. It’s getting faster, more connected, there’s more information and greater choice. This change shapes consumer expectations, it creates a new set of needs, and ultimately informs what they seek from brands.

The average consumer is no longer happy with an average shopping experience. Forget simply buying online or having a casual browse in-store. Now, shoppers expect one-click purchases and super-fast delivery, wrapped up in a multi-sensory, personalised and perfectly memorable experience.

Calendar events are no longer enough to satiate consumers’ appetite for seasonal retail experiences. Existing holidays must be re-imagined, and new and niche reasons to celebrate with a purchase or visit to the centre must be detected.

The rise of the experience economy

Leverage the Happiness Halo

The areas in which we’re spending has shifted. A huge change in consumer behaviour is under way, from buying things to doing things – resulting in the budding experience economy. Average household spending on recreation and culture is now nearly £70 per week.

Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more, and longer-lasting, happiness than possessions. This is because happiness is as much about how we look forward to, and back on, an event as it is about the event itself - something Lippincott calls “the happiness halo.”

Stores are seeing a resurgence as high street retailing becomes an immersive, high-tech experience combining shopping with leisure and entertainment.

“The benefits of making the in-store shopping trip a unique and engaging experience are plentiful. Stores are becoming leisure destinations, as much about engagement and excitement as making product inventory available.”

- Eric Fergusson, director of retail services at eCommera

Brand example: Selfridges' Shakespeare Refashioned

Selfridges has partnered with a host of designers, musicians and renowned British drama schools as part of a storewide campaign marking 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. Windows recreate scenes from the playwright’s works and feature specially created clothing which can be bought in-store.

The first phase, or Act I, of the window campaign features garments inspired by some of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies and romances, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, while for the second phase, or Act II, clothing by designers such as Rick Owens, Givenchy and Gareth Pugh will be featured, inspired by his tragedies.

A theatre has also been set up inside Selfridges, where Much Ado About Nothing will be staged, and acting lessons offered.

Totally immerse people in experiences

In 2015 we saw an increase in multi-sensory experiences.

Today, immersive experiences are going a step deeper where physical sensations are fused with creative technology to create the ultimate mind-blowing experiences. Even content filmed at events will be taken to the next immersive level with 360 degree video - thanks to consumer camera products becoming readily available, and Facebook and YouTube launching 360 video players.

This may sound extreme, but if events are packing an immersive punch, retail will also have to up its game a gear.

According to research by Brightcove, around four in five UK shoppers agree that visual stimulus, through interactivity, video and photography, enhances their shopping experience and influences them to make a purchase.

Kevin Gill, UK CEO of Start recently wrote

“The domination of digital interactions are actually starting to drive us to go seek tangible, enjoyable, physical experiences instead, and as a result we’re looking for new, ever more exciting, intense and social ways to get every ounce of value from our leisure time.”

Brands should look to deliver immersive experiences that fulfil our desire for specialness. They can be online or offline, digitally enabled fantasy or completely natural, it’s the quality and novelty that’s truly important.

Brand example: The Hive at Kew Gardens

An open-air structure standing at 17 metres tall and weighing in at 40 tonnes, The Hive encapsulates the story of the honey bee and the important role of pollination in feeding the planet, through an immersive sound and visual experience - thousands of pieces of aluminium are fitted with hundreds of LED lights that glow and fade as a unique soundtrack hums and buzzes around you.

Both Instagram-worthy and educational, visitors are encouraged to photograph the structure and browse honey, homeware, or art from the Hive-inspired collection.

So what?

  • We don’t have to be limited to the time the customer is physically in store. How can intu draw out an experience so vibrant and engaging that customers can’t help but look forward to, and back on it?
  • Seasonal events are already steeped in tradition and ritual – how can these be re-imagined in an even more immersive and sensory way? Could utilising emerging technologies blended with tangible experiences be something to explore?
  • Kicking back on digital, consumers are also looking to make more use of all five senses. Even with immersive VR and AR technology available, is there an opportunity to engage smell and touch? Or even deprive visitors of sight or sound so that other senses are heightened – this would work particularly well with getting customers back in touch with nature. Who knows the difference between bird calls, or what an oak leaf feels like these days?

A desire for discovery and adventure

Help visitors realise their inner child

Research is increasingly saying we should be spending less time working and more time playing – play de-stresses us, it refreshes us and restores our optimism.

Young adults are drinking less and taking fewer drugs - just one in 50 young adults describe themselves as a frequent drinker. Instead we get excited by the Great British Bake Off, adult ball pools and mindfulness achieved through grown-up colouring. Like other activities we might associate with our childhoods, these things are safe, they’re playful and they carry a kind of nostalgic charm.

(Natural cosmetics retailer) Lush’s best-selling Fun & Games party involves friends competing against each other in a series of high-energy activities involving their most fun products. Games are tailor-made following a consultation so that those new to Lush will discover and learn about product ranges through play, and the more seasoned Lush fans can show off their knowledge in treasure hunts and quizzes.

With a renewed focus on living for the moment, consumers are looking for time to relax and have more fun. There is growing demand for brands that are visual, playful, fun and bold, brands that help us realise our inner child.

Brand example: LEGO + Lagers

Toronto's Gladstone Hotel is hosting a unique event called 'LEGO + Lagers' that gives adults a chance to let their imagination run wild. Those interested in participating can simply grab a pint from the bar and choose their favourite box of LEGO. There are LEGO sets for making everything from castles to UFOs, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to get creative.

Play to niche interests

As people have become increasingly diverse in their cultural consumption, tiny communities of individuals who all share an equally eclectic range of interests, passions and values have been created. Kids particularly have more access to more culture at a younger age than ever before, and exposure to digital means that they’re starting to carve individual tastes and create different identities at ever younger ages, way before their teens.

Where once you had to join a local club or know somebody with the same interest as you, people can now connect with others at the click of a mouse. And because you can find others who share your interests, ‘weird’ is becoming the new normal and is celebrated - at least in the small groups we’re creating.

Meetup is the world's largest network of local groups and makes it easy for anyone to organise a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face - more than 9,000 groups get together in local communities each day.

In today’s world, where time is the scarcest resource of all, consumers that spend time and effort mastering a unique interest or skill not only build their self-esteem, they also gain status for their achievements. And the more time they spend honing their skills, the deeper their connection with the brands that taught them. Consumers now seek a deeper, lasting and personal impact from purchases.

Brand example: Allotment of the Future

Allotment of the Future gives visitors the opportunity to learn about future food sources, how to make insects taste good, how to ferment ingredients and much more. Workshops on growing crops from used coffee grounds, and growing plants completely without soil are on offer. Sections of the allotment are devoted urban growing, soil health, technology and climate change, and chefs are on site on a number of days running various sessions.

So what?

  • Adult play is a hot topic. How can intu tap into nostalgia and encourage not just families, but grown-ups, to let loose and indulge in childlike pastimes?
  • With interests among the mainstream becoming more diverse, how can intu bring these specialist communities together, or inspire others to get involved in more alternative hobbies?
  • Equally, with an ear to the ground and agile planning, can intu take advantage by jumping on trends that gain sudden popularity – such as the current Pokémon Go craze?

Tapping into locality and the social good

Play to the heritage or culture of a local area

Today’s world is increasingly interconnected as growing Internet access, travel and trade accelerate the exchange of ideas, information, people and products. But with globalisation comes an opposite reaction.

“In a globalised world, there will inevitably be many similar trends across the globe. And these in turn will generate opposition in the form of localisation, as people try to assert their own identity, which is only natural. In order to do business anywhere, we need to have a firm grasp of what it means to be global and what it means to be local.”

- Tadashi Yanai, chief executive of Fast Retailing

Embracing local uniqueness, some brands are incorporating community-focused concepts, philanthropic initiatives and locally attuned design into their retail formats – demonstrating an affinity with local needs and cultural patterns.

Brand example: Amsterdam Denim Days

As Europe’s premier indigo purveyor, Amsterdam has been living up to its name through its annual denim programme ‘Amsterdam Denim Days‘. Each year in spring, the city plays host to a series of denim-related events for fashion-forward fans of denim. Professionals from the denim industry and all denim enthusiasts get together for a week-long celebration of industry fairs, city centre retail events as well as a two day denim show dedicated to jeans culture.

Help customers contribute to the greater good

Transparency, sustainability, and a purpose beyond profit are more than popular catchphrases. They’re now bottom-line expectations for how larger businesses and brands are expected to operate. According to a recent study, 73% of consumers believe brands have a responsibility to do more than just generate a profit.

People around the globe are hungry for socio-political change and believe that businesses actually bear as much responsibility as governments for driving this positive change.

We as people find personal wellbeing in having meaning and purpose in life, and by contributing to a greater good. People are becoming fed up with perceived inactivity from governments and frustrated at formal avenues of support. Spurred on by social media, many are linking up with like-minded others to make things happen. Whether it’s taking part in the ice-bucket challenge or offering refugees a lift across the border, there is a real sense of people at the grassroots taking matters into their collective hands. And doing good together feels good.

Brand example: Ted Baker & Carlsberg's Movember

A recent Carlsberg Ted Baker event celebrated the end of Movember with a festive communal shave-off. The event served as a valuable in-store experience for Ted Baker’s Grooming Rooms, and promoted Carlberg's new line of beer-infused men's grooming products.

Normally, a shave and complimentary beer would cost almost £25, but during the special event, customers could book an appointment for the package that only cost them 99p.

The proceeds from the shave-off benefited Movember and the event showcased the opportunity for brand's to introduce products or services in a way that educates consumers and provide hands-on product interaction.

So what?

  • There is huge opportunity to create a following around an annual event which becomes part of a city’s culture – for both locals and tourists alike. This can be tied to existing heritage or tap into more current thinking, such as Amsterdam’s Denim Days. What are the unique opportunities for intu to leverage in its centre’s cities? What makes these places special and distinctive?
  • Equally, people today are fascinated by foreign philosophy, ideas and products. For example, the recent boom of interest in Korean culture has flooded categories across food, beauty and media. Are there opportunities for intu to celebrate dates in other culture’s calendars? Events such as the Rio Olympics will provide a steer and stepping stone to these locations of interest, bringing a slice of global to the local.
  • How can intu be part of these chains of goodwill – guided by strong value systems and offering support that is timely and generous? This could be with brand partners, tie ups with charities, or by launching new initiatives close to the heart of the intu brand.


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  • Protein
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  • Status Skills, Trendwatching
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  • http://hub.jointhedotsmr.com/comley/happiness
  • http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/carlsberg-ted-baker
Created By
Freya Vinten

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