Prior to Covid-19, the retail industry was experiencing a downward spiral with changing marketplace trends, brick and mortar closures, and rising on-line commerce. The retail industry has always been adept at evolving to meet customer trends. Prior to the pandemic, many businesses were already reacting to shifts in consumer habits by creating in-store experiences with sensory and social interactions to create more foot traffic. Shopping malls, once anchored by movie theaters to draw of customers to dine and shop amongst the surrounding restaurants, boutiques, and store-fronts began upgrading venues with 4D film experiences as well as different entertainment attractions such as traveling exhibits, pop-up concerts, fashion shows, and other promotional events to increase foot traffic.
Expanding Brand Communities with Retailtainment
Many well-known brands followed by investing in developing immersive environments that complemented their own products and services, seducing guests with a sensory “escape” experiences that fulfilled a connection to see, feel, smell, taste, and hear their surroundings. One such example includes a well-known nightclub that was said to double the sales of their signature cocktail drink by introducing the scent of coconut into the environment. It is believed that by introducing sensory cues, shoppers were influenced to select that particular product. Sensory marketing is not a new concept; however, many retail innovators have, long, been developing interactive brand experiences. User engagement helps to build brand communities because it allows for people to relate to and share in the experience. The connection forged between such positive interaction re-enforces brand presence and loyalty.
Tommy Bahama ™ – Ahead of the Curve
For several decades, the Tommy Bahama™ brand has adeptly incorporated sensory experiences wrapped around their restaurant and retail sphere of influence. The brand is well respected for its distinctive character expressing fine living and sophisticated taste through its clothing, drinks, food, and home décor collections. In celebration of an attractive, island-inspired lifestyle, guests are invited to immerse themselves in Tommy Bahama ™’s effortless culture where they can relax in style and satiate their appetite for the good life.
Tommy Bahama Restaurant, Bar and Store ™ Waikiki, Hawaii, is a flagship destination concept and has demonstrated retailtainment success where guests can fluidly shop, sip, eat, and enjoy. This unique location includes an expansive first-floor retail space with a restaurant and bar area on the second floor that captures the outdoor feel as well as showcases sweeping windows with romantic views of the city. The festive third level rooftop bar features a “giant sandbox” patio cocktail area for lounging and an outdoor dining room for enjoying the open sky. Significant architectural design features a beautiful staircase that takes guests seamlessly between floors, bordered by a “living plant wall” for a green garden effect.
This oasis not only allows visitors to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life but offers a host of sensory delights throughout Tommy Bahama ™’s signature luxurious and understated surroundings. Tommy Bahama™ enthusiasts can taste plates from their contemporary cuisine menu and enjoy hand-crafted cocktails creations while actively shopping in this paradise. The progressive party type of atmosphere allows for the freedom to experience different activities on each floor without compromising the casual sophistication of the brand that appeals to those with an appetite for life.
Will sensory retailtainment prevail in a post-pandemic society?
While it is well-documented that the retail industry was suffering before the Covid-19 era, retailtainment venues such as Tommy Bahama Restaurant, Bar and Store ™, Waikiki, Hawaii were resonating with customers. Similarly, in early 2020, pre-pandemic, it was announced that Warner Bros ™ would open an official Harry Potter ™ retailtainment store in New York featuring a large collection of merchandise with interactive opportunities for enthusiasts to indulge themselves.
Fans have been thrilled with the announcement and have been eagerly waiting for details on the Harry Potter Store New York ™ opening date. After much anticipation, the launch of the store will not only be a momentous occasion for those seeking a wondrous and magical experience but it may also draw a new audience…one that has been sheltering in place, ready to get out, experience new things and prime for interacting with the world around them.
When establishments do re-open and, as a society, we move past this pandemic, no one knows what the outlook may be for our “new normal”. However, it is believed by engaging sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell, brands can capture a sensory vibe that taps into the psyche. By appealing to the human need for connection, there is a feeling that people will want to immerse themselves in fresh experiences so they be create their own stories and be a part of a brand community. The pandemic may have accelerated the departure of many household name brands, but it has caused industry leaders to rethink, reinvent and reshape their businesses in order to bring patrons back to brick & mortar spaces. By expanding upon this concept,
It seems that the future is ripe for sensory retailtainment to grow on mainstream minds.