Feature

Seven of the best... experiential stores of 2017

Flagship stores are becoming the beacon of the brand experience on a high street near you.

Seven of the best... experiential stores of 2017

From a virtual-reality water slide to immersive backdrops, retailers across the globe are creating in-store experiences that consumers can engage with and share. Mindshare’s chief executive Helen McRae said recently that retailers need to excite and inspire customers with new formats and technologies to encourage them to spend time in their stores. These seven brands are doing exactly that with their experience stores.

Dr Martens

When footwear brand Dr Martens opened its flagship shop in Camden (pictured above) this April, it introduced a VR station, powered by Oculus, to take guests on a tour of the brand’s original UK factory. It also included a gif booth for social sharing and a customisation area to enable visitors to walk out with a personalised pair of Docs.

Samsung

Meanwhile, Samsung’s newly opened store in Eaton Centre Toronto aims to be the brand’s most experiential outlet to date. It features a fully functioning kitchen with live demonstrations and on-site tastings, plus a TV experience zone and the GearVR and Gear360 zones.

Nike

Aiming to offer a ‘personal sport experience’, Nike SoHo presents a multi-sport experience across a 55k-square-foot retail space that stretches over five storeys. This much-lauded New York store really bridges the gap between digital and physical platforms. This is demonstrated dramatically on the fifth floor, where the Nike+ Basketball Trial Zone stretches to the size of half a court in a room with a 23-foot-high ceiling. Customers can come in, try on basketball shoes and shoot hoops with in-store athletes. The Trial Zone is surrounded by high-definition screens, transporting customers to famous US basketball courts in Washington Heights and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Rebecca Minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff, pioneer of the connected-store concept, has introduced smart mirrors, touchscreens and RFID-powered tables to enhance the customer experience. These enable shoppers to pick up, try  on and purchase designer fashion items seamlessly in a slick, tech-infused environment. At the brand’s Manhattan store, interactive displays can be used to browse and order different styles or sizes while the personalised fitting rooms feature mood lighting.

Topshop

And it’s not just about high-end fashion brands. Topshop’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Circus has deployed a combination of experiences, stunts and pop-ups to engage and delight its customers constantly. The brand’s summer-themed Splash! event hit the headlines in July, when it offered an intense VR experience combined with a real in-store slide. Customers could sit on an inflatable and ride a real slide in the store, before being taken on a VR journey across Oxford Street. The entire store was pumped with the scent of sun lotion and a special Topshop Snapchat filter was created for social sharing. Currently, Stranger Things are afoot as the store's Halloween marketing activity focuses around Netflix's supernatural show.

John Lewis Oxford

The latest store from John Lewis, which opened in Oxford this week, aims to offer concierge-style shopping, with one fifth of its floorspace dedicated to services and experiences. These include eye tests, personal styling, free tech training workshops to help customers get the most out of their purchases and the brand’s first express nail and brow bar, while exclusive events include a pop-up barbers shop, make-up masterclass or home design styling. At the store’s experience desk, John Lewis’ first ever brand experience manager will help customers plan their day while hotel-style tours of the store are also on offer.

Uniqlo

Also making its debut at Westgate Oxford, the largest new retail and leisure destination in the UK, is Uniqlo. The Japanese giant has an impressive track record in holding in-store events, from yoga mornings to mindfullness workshops to tennis events for children and last year, hosted an Unlock Utopia rooftop event at its flagship London store. The brand's LifeWear ethos is all about making people's lives better, and that aim is set to flow through to the new Oxford store's customer experience.