Six ways to bring back the love

Remember when going to the mall meant driving around for an eternity looking for a parking spot? If so, you probably also remember a time when shopping could be a real outing not to mention a dose of retail therapy that fed a hungry era of conspicuous consumption—and, if you were a boisterous teenager back then, hanging out at the mall was also the de rigueur social experience!

No longer living in a ‘material world’

While Madonna may have sung about living in a material world, today’s millennials are singing a different tune: living in an experiential world. That is, they value experiences over material goods—not to mention sharing them on Instagram.

“Experiences are also what people increasingly use to define themselves across social channels. Take a spin through your Instagram and Facebook feeds, and you’re more likely to see a friend’s trip to Angkor Wat or pictures of their baby on the beach in Tulum versus photos of a Vuitton bag or new pair of Louboutins,” Ad Age reports.

An online U.S. study of millennials conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Eventbrite found that: “More than 3 in 4 millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable and 55% of millennials say they’re spending more on events than ever before, with no signs of slowing.”

Gimme more

So are millennials addicted to experiences? “Not shockingly, more than 8 in 10 millennials (82%) attended or participated in a variety of live experiences in the past year, ranging from parties, concerts, festivals, performing arts and races and themed sports—and more so than other older generations (70%). But millennials can’t get enough. 72% say they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things in the next year, pointing to a move away from materialism and a growing demand for real-life experiences,” adds Eventbrite.

But, it’s not just the millennial generation. “Since 1987, the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70%. People want to experience more, and businesses are evolving and entering the market to meet that demand.”

Bringing back the love

So what can retailers do? Here are six ways to leverage consumer experiences and win hearts—as well as provide some Instagram-worthy moments.

  • Offer unique in-store experiences – Stores are experimenting with creative ways to give shoppers something they can’t get online. Take Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan, for example. reports that Macy’s has “hosted dance parties as well as opened a special floor, called One Below, geared toward millennials. One Below contains selfie walls, wearable tech and 3-D printers for custom-made accessories. Members of the young demographic value being able to curate and personalize their possessions, sure, but they also don’t like being stereotyped. They’re turned off by transparent attempts to market to them, and they don’t all dwell on their obsession with selfies like older generations do. Still, these efforts are a sign that Macy’s recognizes the need to offer something more than merchandise alone.”


  • Remember, one size does not fit all – The Hershey Lab is experimenting with Medley, a fictitious grocery chain and a series of concept stores. From “a butcher who can help with meal planning; a wine, beer and liquor expert who can offer pairing advice and cocktail ideas (and even samples); a demo kitchen where chefs offer meal inspiration” to “a virtual reality escape to new countries with exciting foods,” the portfolio of offerings are aimed at meeting the needs of a diverse group of shoppers. Lina Yang, Director of The Hershey Lab states, “What we see in the future is there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all category.”
  • Cool technologies – IKEA has created a virtual reality experience that allows consumers to “to walk around a real size, make-believe 3D kitchen and interact with objects.”

IKEA states: “Once inside, you’ll be equipped with two wands, which let you navigate freely and try out all the cool stuff. For instance, with a simple click you can change the colour of cabinets and drawers. So let’s fantasize – if there were NO limits to your desires, what would your kitchen look like? What would it feel like?”

Jesper Brodin, IKEA Range & Supply Manager, adds: “Virtual reality is developing fast and in five to ten years it will be an integrated part of people’s lives. We see that it will play a major role in the future, for instance it could be used to enable people to try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them.”

And many consumers have already embraced the idea of having more technology in their retail experiences. A recently released survey (6) by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) states that by 2020, consumers want to:

– Have access to products/sizes available in store without engaging a salesperson (62 percent)

– Virtually view how home furnishings and how accessories fit in a home before they make a purchase (55 percent)

– Compile a shopping list on a store app and receive a floor map to locate products (54 percent)

  • Deliver the personal touch – The ICSC survey also found that consumers are seeking personalized experiences from retailers, and reports that:

– 80% of those who have mall/shopping center apps choose to receive notifications about sales/promotions and/or special events while shopping

– 44% of respondents want to receive access to apps or screens that make it easy to get information such as ingredients in products for allergies, dietary needs, etc.

– 43% of consumers are receptive to the idea of retailers personalizing prices based on their shopping patterns and demographics

– 39% would visit a mall or shopping center more often if they received alerts from stores that are selling products they are interested in purchasing

  • High-tech ‘social shopping’ – The makeup counter at Neiman Marcus at Copley Place in Boston has a “magic mirror,” powered with technology from Memomi, and features memory and adjustable lighting as well as the ability to send a video to a consumer’s phone to share with friends. Memomi has also developed a dressing room mirror that allows consumers to “try on items virtually—changing colors and patterns instantly, adding accessories and other items to create the perfect look all without having to physically trying on a single thing.” Consumers can select videos of their try-ons that they’d like to be emailed to themselves or friends.


  • Create retail entertainment – Could malls become the new entertainment destinations? Steven Spielberg and three studios have joined forces with a goal “to boost VR and retail, merging the virtual and real worlds in order to stimulate consumer interest in the future of entertainment and shopping,” reports Brandchannel.

Up to six people at a time will be able to interact in a Dreamscape Immersive VR experience lasting about 10 minutes with ticket prices on par with that of movie tickets, adds Brandchannel.

A golden opportunity?

While brick-and-mortar sales may have been altered due to the digital world, with creative solutions and innovative technologies, there’s a whole new frontier of opportunities to help bring consumers with an experiential nature back to the material world.