Large-Format Experiential Stores Focus on the Customer Experience


At a time when many retailers might be cutting back on brick-and-mortar investments to focus more on e-commerce, a few notable ones are taking the opposite approach and launching large-format experiential stores to immerse customers in the full brand experience and offer items in each product category, from couches to dresses.

Such stores are engaging shoppers by making the customer experience the focus. Anthropologie, for example, is growing its new stores to provide a unique experience that includes full service shops and access to online-only merchandise in its new Anthropologie & Co. stores.

For retailers considering expanding their store layouts – and even retailers with no plans to do so – understanding what makes larger format experiential stores successful can provide valuable insights to improve brick-and-mortar operations. With an effective strategy in place, such stores have the potential to offer several key benefits and keep customers coming back.

Create a unique customer experience

Large-format experiential stores can lead to an unparalleled shopping experience. With a wider range of inventory and plenty of room to shop, each section of the store is meticulously designed and curated for the shopper.

Anthropologie’s experiential format include a full beauty section, petites selection, shoe and accessories salon and jewelry store. It also include a home section, with fully decorated “rooms,” including bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms.

Conversely, traditional Anthropologie stores might only have clothing, a handful of accessories and a small selection of home goods. This wide variety of options gives customers the opportunity to customize their experience to fit their personal needs, ultimately building customer loyalty. It also enables customers to imagine what certain pieces commonly only found online – such as furniture – might look like in their own homes.

Offer more than merchandise

In addition to including a wider variety of merchandise than your typical store, some large-format experiential stores go beyond merchandise when it comes to pleasing their customers. For example, Restoration Hardware began opening larger scale stores, known as RH galleries, to highlight more of its designs, which they refer to as “next generation design galleries.”

Beyond simply providing a wide variety of Restoration Hardware merchandise, the retailer included an upscale restaurant and café at its RH Chicago (The Gallery at the Historic 3 Arts Club) location that has become so successful, the retailer has added eateries to additional gallery locations.

These stores provide value to the customer throughout their entire in-store experience –whether through a seamless shopping or dining experience. Other retailers can learn that offering customers a full brand experience – and encouraging customers to return time and time again – can go beyond simply the expanded inventory and layout. It is about creating a unique experience that customers can’t get through online shopping.

Focus on convenience at check-out

While many consumers have been receptive to large format experiential stores, it’s important for retailers to set themselves up for success by avoiding making the stores feel too big. Though convenient, large stores with endless merchandise can be overwhelming for both employees and customers.

Large-format experiential stores give shoppers the opportunity to find and check out items that they might want to order online, but are concerned about size, fit and function. While these stores – which can be 25,000 sq. ft. or more in size – are meant to hold maximum inventory, successful retailers have made the space feel personal with their design layout and customer service.

Brick-and-mortar stores both large and small can make their shopping space feel more personal by having plenty of staff roaming the store to assist customers with mobile POS devices, like tablets, to help find items or check-out.

Customer service and simple payment options are both key to large experiential formats and online retail success because shoppers tend to place the highest value on flexibility and convenience. In Worldpay’s recent Pay That Way study, shoppers revealed that they make purchasing and payment decisions based on availability (18%), speed (13%) and convenience (15%). If the customer experience is inconvenient, there’s a chance customers might not complete transactions or return to a given store in the future.

Retailers can also provide more convenience at check-out by offering multiple payment options, such as contactless cards and mobile wallets, so their customers can pay the way they want.

Mark Bergner is director of product strategy at Worldpay US, a global payments company for all channels: in-store, online and via mobile.


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