The Rise of the Boutique Experience
Boutique retail experiences, also known as bespoke services, offer personalized shopping experiences. Discover who's doing it now and how to compete.
The expectations of customers change often depending on desires and trends—but rarely do they shift as dramatically as they have recently with the rise of boutique retail experiences. Sometimes called "experiential marketing" or "bespoke services," these extremely custom experiences enable customers to not only shop but also identify with a brand and feel completely immersed.
Rising to Meet New Customer Expectations
Customers are starting to want—and, in some cases, demand—that brands offer something uniquely for them in order to earn their attention. This has fueled the rise of boutique experiences to help brands stand out to potential customers. And, as millennials and Gen Z customers increase their buying power—estimated to be $600 billion and $143 billion respectively—companies must adapt to these consumers' desires in order to capture their dollars.
One popular example is brands that are pivoting toward offering "lifestyles" and not just products. This enables customers to "experience" the brand while they shop for products. For instance, a flower shop might teach a free floral-arranging class.
Other brands are responding to these younger generations' native familiarity with technology by using new innovations that elevate the shopping experience. This has manifested in clothing stores offering interactive mirrors to call personal shoppers.
Complete Brand Immersion
There are several examples of brands implementing a variety of immersive boutique experiences. Looking at these successful case studies can help fuel ideas for creating something innovative for your brand.
Glossier is an online, direct-to-consumer cosmetics and skincare company. They've built a loyal following in a variety of ways, but chief among them is opening both brick-and-mortar stores and pop-up shops across both the U.S. and U.K., which allow customers to experience the products in person. Their signature light pink packaging is reflected in their decor, which enables customers to feel their beloved products come alive.
An online, direct-to-consumer mattress company, Casper has built showrooms that enable customers to test out their mattresses. And they take it beyond a traditional mattress retailer—they've even begun to offer naps on their mattresses for a small fee. That's a unique, fun experience that customers can't get anywhere else.
The Daily Edited
Australian accessories company The Daily Edited has a couple of brick-and-mortar stores in New York, but their presence is primarily overseas. To expand their limited U.S. presence, the company has opened pop-up shops within established stores like Saks Fifth Avenue to let customers not only touch products but also monogram their purchases on the spot.
Retail shoe company Vans has a devoted following. They've created a unique, immersive brand experience in-store that includes offering entertainment—and even a halfpipe for customers to test their skateboarding shoes right onsite.
Why It's Important to Keep Up
As brand loyalty becomes one of the most important components of success, these experiential, immersive, and highly tailored experiences are unique ways to stand out and meet customer expectations. These kinds of changes increase loyalty, and can also create evangelists—earned marketing that is invaluable.
Consider the following ways to utilize experiential marketing in your business:
- Enable users to touch the products offline. If you're a purely direct-to-consumer brand, providing a way for potential customers to touch and feel the products can help secure purchases from customers who are hesitant to buy with you online.
- Adding personal shopping without a fee. Consumers are generally accustomed to paying for personal shopping as a premium service. Create a tailored experience for your customers by offering free personal shopping in-store.
- Show how your product works. Add both demonstrations and tangible experiences with your product or service, and enable customers to participate.
- Offer bespoke services only available in stores. If you have multiple locations, create specific services and experiences for each store. That can incentivize customers to visit multiple locations, and gives your business a chance to be featured for a multitude of boutique offerings.
- Integrate augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). Install technology that gives customers a totally out-of-this-world experience unique to your shop.
Shouting Your Change from the Rooftops
If you go forward to build a custom experience for your brand, don't just cross your fingers and hope customers find out about what you've created. It's important that you promote your innovation and show how it embodies your brand in a new way.
There are a few ways to consider sharing your news, some more effective or suitable for certain programs than others. Among them are:
- Social media: Instagram particularly can be a fantastic vehicle to really take customers inside your store with both photos and video, especially if your custom experience is highly visual.
- Pop-up shops: Creating smaller experiences in the form of pop-up shops in a variety of markets can be a great way to preview your boutique experience and drive people into your main locations.
- Newsletters and email: Use your email lists to let your customers know about your changes and invite them in. You can also offer an even more specialized experience to your newsletter customers with a coupon or exclusive digital signup.
- Influencer marketing: The world of influencer marketing is complex, but if you're willing to take the dive, you can consider inviting influencers to your shop directly and have them share on social media.
No, it's neither cheap nor a light lift to create one of these boutique experiences. However, the effort can be very much worth it: the bond you'll create with your customers is intangibly invaluable, and the potential for earned marketing is high. And, if you execute it right, elevating your brand can also position you for high returns.