Retail is Entertainment & the Store is your stage

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to hear Maxine Clark speak (Founder & CEO of Build-A-Bear). During her speech she shared a great quote, which originated from a department store executive decades ago:

“Retail is entertainment and the store is the stage. When the customer has more fun they spend more money.”

People respond better when the shopping experience appeals to emotional as well as functional needs. Retailers with premium brands do this by building immersive shopping experiences. Abercrombie & Fitch is a great example of a retailer that excels at building this type of experience in the offline world – everything from the music, the scent in the store, the lighting and the presence of models on the walls & walking around the store floor create a feeling of being in a nightclub or other “cool” destination. It’s been proven that visual cues can elicit emotion, and in this case the effect is you aspire to look like the people around you.

The online world has lagged the offline world in this regard. If you go to Amazon electronics vs. books vs. beauty vs. home goods, the experience is largely the same. The same homogenous experience can be found on eBay. Gilt Group is one of the few online retailers that is doing a good job of building a more immersive media experience around their online store.

So how do you take advantage of this? There are 3 principles that are important to remember when creating a compelling experience:

  1. Escape: The store experience should enable shoppers to be fully present in an immersive experience.
  2. Fantasy: Memories are stronger when a story is woven into the experience.
  3. Inclusion: People need to feel that they are part of the experience in order to form an emotional connection.

From Gavin at

“Even without the direct associations with a specific story line a retail space should still conform to some very basic principles.  Namely, escape, fantasy, and inclusion. The total experience speaks to cultural and psychological triggers of enjoyment and participation. People create memories within places if storylines develop and form personal connections. The stronger the connection, the more likely they are to frequent the space and to buy. A good retail space needs to be create a shared identity, connecting the company and the shopper by developing clear imagery and displays that create the sense that there is a narrative behind the façade.”

There is more competition than ever for consumers’ mindshare. And in categories rife with choice, emotional factors can drive purchasing behavior more than functional needs. For these reasons, weaving entertainment into a shopping experience becomes a necessity.

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