What could experiential retail look like for shoe brands?

Experiential retail has been spoken about as the solution to our ailing high streets, and empty unit filled shopping malls. Retailers have interpreted the concept in diverse ways. From in-store DJs, to iPad ordering systems; shoe retailers have been exploring what experiential retail means to them and their customers.

Instead of adding technology to our existing physical retail models, I propose that we look at experiential shoe retail from a different angle. Any interactions between a business and a person who might buy its products or services should be about connection and relationship building. This is quite hard to achieve in the digital sphere: rarely do we feel as though we’re interacting with an individual human when we’re on e-commerce sites or social media feeds. The exception to this is the live chat function, but the pop-up appearance of a chat window can feel intrusive and cause us to reject the offer of this communication method.

In-store, brands and retailers should look to create connection, conversation and exploration. The independent shoe brand Tracey Neuls does this well in its three London stores. Shoes are hung from the ceiling by ribbons, Tracey’s sketchbooks are on display, and there are no prices on shoes. All of these elements are intriguing conversation starters between visitors to Tracey Neuls stores, and brand employees.

Sales scripts are no longer relevant when we treat our potential customers as humans rather than prospects. “How can I help you?” or “Are you looking for something in particular?” become whatever feels right for the retail worker and the person who has just walked into their space. For one person, it could be a simple “How are you?” for another it could be “Welcome! Have you seen this?” or even a reference to a conversation two employees were just having. Speaking to each other whilst ignoring a potential customer would be rude, but having the conversation and then inviting the third person in makes them feel part of your club. The conversation doesn’t have to be about your products; you’re simply sharing a human experience.

When a genuine connection has been created, the human who is your potential customer feels comfortable to explore your products, and ask questions.

So, what does experiential shoe retail look like? It’s not a look, it’s a feeling.