Brand Experience

The Micro-Experience Experience

The Micro-Experience Experience 1440 428 ASG

“Micro-experiences are the next big thing in customer engagement,” proclaims an article on the US Chamber website. That’s a bold statement, considering more robust customer engagement is something that every retailer on the planet is after. How can micro experiences through retail brand collaborations bring customers back for more?

By micro experience, we’re talking about a small-scale, physical activation that brings a branded experience to multiple locations, generating revenue and excitement. It goes beyond the flagship store, reaching every consumer and creating a memorable, intimate interaction with the brand. It offers a novel and immersive experience for those willing to engage on a deeper level.

Micro Experience, Massive Impact

Micro-experiences, unfortunately, took a hit during the pandemic, but their potential impact cannot be overlooked. In 2019, American Girl Doll and L’Occitane exemplified this trend by introducing a joint experience that fostered personal connections with customers.

However, today’s micro experiences go beyond product interactions. They involve creative collaborations like Capital One transforming bank lobbies into cozy cafes in partnership with Peet’s Coffee, or the immersive “cold room” at Canada Goose, where customers can try on parkas. It could even be a local liquor store teaming up with a nearby winery for Friday night tastings. The goal is to deliver a distinctive and lasting impression that enhances brand awareness and loyalty, offering an intimate and exclusive encounter with the brand and its partners.

Answering the Call of Consumers

These integrated, often hands-on experiences can have a significant impact. In fact, more than 20% of consumers told Raydient that they would shop more if retailers offered unique experiences, and a staggering 68.9% of consumers emphasized the importance of a positive in-store experience.

“Brands should invest heavily in ways to recognize and leverage these moments, finding the right time to send a personalized offer that will help solve whatever problem is facing the potential customer at that time. This is about being able to reach the right customer at the right time — a cutting-edge marketing challenge but one that’s increasingly solvable thanks to the technology solutions available today.” KPMG

Integrating Micro Experiences

As retailers consider how to deliver micro experiences to their customers, it’s crucial to think about how the experience can be authentic to the brand. It makes sense that a company that sells parkas would have an ice room. Here are some ways retailers can integrate micro experiences into their stores:

  • Thoughtful Store Layout – Design stores with designated spaces for micro experiences. Areas can be dedicated to interactive displays, product demonstrations, or immersive installations that engage customers and create a memory.
  • Interactive Displays – Incorporate interactive displays that allow customers to touch, feel, and interact with products. This hands-on approach enhances customer engagement and encourages exploration.
  • Personalized Service – While many of these experiences can be unattended, it’s essential that staff are trained to provide personalized and attentive service to customers during those experiences. This tailored approach adds an extra layer of memorability by making customers feel valued and attended to.
  • Sensory Elements – Incorporate multi-sensory elements into the store environment, including ambient music, appealing scents, or visually captivating displays that immerse customers in a brand’s ethos.
  • Pop-Up Events – Create temporary pop-up installations or events in-store that offer unique and limited-time experiences. Think workshops, demonstrations, and unique collaborations that excite consumers and drive foot traffic.

Some retailers are at the forefront of the micro experience. Let’s take a closer look at who is getting it right.

Personalization and Customization
Customers want to feel like their shopping experience is not the same as every other customer, that it’s uniquely designed for them. With technology and consumer data at the fingertips of most retailers, it’s easier to create micro experiences that play on that desire to be catered to.

Who is getting it right? Look to Sephora, a brand that consistently garners high levels of loyalty by offering exclusive in-store events and makeovers.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
The use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can allow customers to experience products in a more immersive way.

Who is getting it right? Check out Burberry, who used a pop-up AR experience in Harrods to coincide with the launch of its new Olympia bag.

Learning and Doing
One of the most popular micro experiences involves hands-on learning in unexpected places, like cooking classes in a grocery store or a painting session in a liquor store.

Who is getting it right? Whole Foods invites guest chefs to specific retail locations to conduct cooking classes with shoppers.

“Micro-experiences really are going to become table stakes for retailers, particularly when today’s consumers have so many choices.” – Sarah Hoffman, chief marketing officer at Drybar.

Micro experiences are physical experiences that are meaningful and engaging. When done right, they encourage a deeper connection with the brand and provide something unique and memorable to the customer.

Brands Inspiring Our Team Right Now

Brands Inspiring Our Team Right Now 1440 428 ASG

We love working with brands, and we’re constantly inspired by the brand landscape around us. We gathered some team members to share their insight into the brands that are moving them today and why.

Andrew Miller – Woolrich

Established in 1830: Born in Woolrich Pennsylvania- the brand equipped those with a passion for outdoors. “The Original Outdoor Clothing Company” is what they call themselves.

Woolrich has produced high-quality garments for over 190 years. Crafting fine and warm wool is their calling, and their mills have lent a helping hand during major historical moments. Woolrich made a big contribution by supplying socks, blankets, and coats to the US soldiers providing them warmth, comfort and quality during American civil war and WW1.

Being a native from PA and Woolrich within 20 minutes to my hometown – Woolrich was a brand growing up that I was educated on by my family. My great grandparents/ and grandparents always sporting their product. I’m grateful that I was gifted by my grandparents, jackets, socks, shirts growing up for holidays and birthdays which grew my interest and introducing me even closer to the brand. To this day and understanding the Woolrich brand given the history, quality, plus their mission makes a difference even more valuable when you understand what you are wearing. – to this day these are high quality pieces that I enjoy wearing time to time when the elements are right.

American Heritage: Keeping true to their products and quality- mirroring the American dream: wear Woolrich to pursue your goals, regardless of the elements.

Iconic brand elements: The Buffalo Check, whose name was inspired by a herd of buffalo owned by the Woolrich designer who developed its distinctive red and black pattern, has been a symbol for Americana and workwear since its inception, and remains one of Woolrich’s most powerful visual codes from season to season.

Purposeful design: Their Product character is pure, considered, consistent. Woolrich collections embody a design sensibility of stylish durability. They unlock the privilege of a life lived outdoors- in nature and urban environments, and anything in-between.

Brand Mission/ Values:
Woolrich is committed to putting social responsibility at the forefront of everything they do. As a brand and company, they are committed to making a positive impact on the world around us, including by taking a respectful approach to their stakeholder relationships, encouraging environmental awareness, and promoting ethical business practices.

  • Sustainability
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Charities
  • Responsible sourcing
  • Woolrich outdoor foundation
  • Code of ethics

Morecia – Linkedin

When I think of a brand that inspires me, I instantly think of something I use daily. In our society, social media presents us not only as a form of entertainment, but a great way to connect with people and keep up with hot topics and trends. Millions of people can connect with their relatives, lifelong friends, and even business professionals through social media. So, if you’re looking to network, LinkedIn is a great platform! Their mission is simple; to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. I have personally connected with hundreds of people from different professions, from business to even healthcare. LinkedIn also is great for creating a space where professionals can reach out to you with job offers in fields that you may be qualified for. Having this social media presents on LinkedIn gave me the opportunity to meet with several hiring managers and that’s how I landed a job with Asset Strategies Group. I would highly recommend using LinkedIn, it’s a leading social media brand, it’s easily accessible, and you can make great connections with many different people.

Max – Gibson

I’m really digging Gibson Guitars right now. They already pull on my heartstrings as a musician… but they’ve taken their brand to another level. Gibson recently opened up a best-in-class retail experience, the Gibson Garage, loaded with exclusive products, events and even a chance to build your dream guitar. So they’re totally winning the retail thing. Not to mention they’ve really invested in their content production team, and they’re telling these amazing stories that guitar junkies (like myself) salivate over. Like all great brands, there’s a story to know and tell, and I feel that same sentiment with my guitars. I remember sinking every penny I had into my first Gibson, and it’s paid it’s worth back in priceless fashion ever since.

Zach – Homer

Homer is a luxury jewelry and accessory brand founded by Frank Ocean in 2018, starting commercially in 2021. The brand is constantly on the front end of avant-garde design, from catalogs to social media marketing, utilizing unconventional techniques and art to market the line. Homer also has a unique way of launching their collections: each collection is unannounced and launched randomly alongside pop-up stores appearing in big cities for an in-person experience. Homer’s products are very expensive, but having unannounced launches with limited product lends the brand a more curated touch rather than being strictly exclusive. The beautiful design behind the brand, combined with the sporadic launches that tend to be few and far between, give a one-of-a-kind, curated feel to the products provided.

Olivia – Dr. Martens

I’m not really brand loyal to anything and just don’t buy corporate speak, so there are few brands I really “connect” to. But my one ride-or-die brand is Dr. Martens. It’s been that way since I got my first pair when I was 14, which is wild that it was 10 years ago! I fell in love with the brand and the product when I put that first pair on. I love everything about them, honestly—the attitude they bring, authenticity, durability, and how they are still that classic work boot that they started off as. They’re still that same work boot that was designed in the 60s, but they have history and ties with the music industry and counterculture, and they’re inherently cool. The brand always does its own thing and has always been authentic to themselves. They know who they are and take pride in the product and history that they have. And I really connect with that because I have always done my own thing, authentic to myself. Dr. Martens were the first thing that I found that felt like it “fit” my style, that and my winged eyeliner, of course, so the brand is pretty special to me. Dr. Martens is an icon for a reason, and I’m sure it means something different to everyone, but those are just a handful of reasons why I admire it!

Also! It is so true how awful they are to break in! But they are so worth it because they are the most comfortable and dependable pair of shoes you’ll own. 😊 Another fun fact, I still have my first pair, and they are beat to hell, but are still perfect work boots, lol.

Steve Morris Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch – a brand that was built on a cult of exclusivity to a total transformation to a brand that embraces inclusivity. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the brand change dramatically, from its image to its product and, ultimately, the store experience. That’s a lot of change, and for them to find success across each channel deserves some credit!

Louis So – Lego

Lego is my brand of choice. I got my 1st set of Legos from my parents when I was in kindergarten back in the 70s. Flash forward to modern times, where I can give my daughter her 1st Lego set years later. And, of course, it was nice, given that this was the 1st Lego set I bought for one of my own.

Lego continues to give us opportunities to build and foster our own imagination. Every block we touch is special, and we continue to build & tear them down repeatedly. Each Lego block allows our memories of imagination in the past, present, and future to visit us again. Lego brings us together, and it doesn’t matter where we tend to use them. Whether we build on the family dining table, on a car trip, on the living room carpet, a hospital bed with our kids, parents, grandparents, or friends, there will always be a place for Legos. Legos give us a way to heal, to love, to share, to collaborate, and most importantly, imagine.

The brand doesn’t stop at home either, as Lego continues to evolve into tons of activations. Legoland theme Park, Lego House, Lego Discover Center, Lego Retail Store, Lego Clothing, Lego life, Lego Education etc.. you get the point.

Got a brand you’d love to share with us?

Send us a message and share some insight into your inspirations.

Pop-Ups as a Retail Experience Lab

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Pop-up shops have become a cure-all in retail business strategy over the past few decades. If done right, pop-ups benefit everyone involved, making them a no-brainer for many brands. Since they began popping up, we have watched them evolve as retail hubs, bolster marketing strategies, and even improve landlord-tenant relationships.

Revolutionizing Retail Hubs

Pop-ups started out as experimental, unique spaces for brands to test specialized customer experiences. Today, they’re revolutionizing street location shopping. Retail hubs have become modular and ever-changing; new, exciting businesses are constantly opening and revolving through these areas—making for a fun, fresh visit every time. Cities big and small have seen pop-ups appear in their suburbs or smaller neighborhoods, not just prime shopping districts.

Landlords and rental agencies have become open to shorter lease terms than have been traditionally available in retail spaces. These leases can be prepared quickly and are less-burdensome for the tenants.

Some spaces and agreements can be shared, cohabitated stores that rotate out regularly. These businesses can plan weeks or months to occupy the given space, execute their pop-up, then clear out for the next business. These shared environments work great for small business coalitions and artists especially, as they can offer lower rates with longer lease terms (offering the chance for multiple pop-ups over the lease term). This creates a win-win situation for landlords and tenants alike.

Striking Marketing Gold

Pop-ups are a goldmine for meaningful, interactive marketing for a brand or product experience that people want to share on social media. The idea is for shared content around the pop-up to create brand awareness and drive traffic to the pop-up location. Everyone wants to see fun, different shopping experiences, and consumers are apt to share. Executing a good pop-up is guaranteed to result in a wealth of valuable word-of-mouth marketing. A pop-up introduces the brand to people who otherwise might not have had it on their radar. The “exclusivity,” or more so the limited time aspect of a pop-up, amplifies consumer interest. Add this to the social media buzz, and you have created the perfect recipe for increasing brand awareness—the main goal of a pop-up.

Pop-ups are also a great way to experiment and test markets, consumer targets, specific locations, product, experience, and more. They offer total brand control and maximum brand exposure. Watching the ways in which consumers shop in a pop-up or how they respond to different experiences can give great insight into what works best for the brand in a given market. Working on the ground of a pop-up, employees interact directly with the customer base. These physical interactions with the brand are beneficial to a new retail business, making pop-ups an ideal business strategy for small businesses or new businesses entering the retail space perhaps after solely operating online.

Good for All Involved

We have seen all the ways pop-ups can benefit the businesses who execute them, but how do they benefit landlords and consumers? A pop-up could bring awareness to surrounding businesses, driving in-bound traffic. Say a shorter lease is about to expire, the landlord could openly advertise the space for rent at a pop-up event and receive far more exposure than if they were to run ads elsewhere. Pop-ups also assist landlords by filling vacant spaces quickly. Businesses might be able to get good deals on rent while the landlord fills their properties. These new businesses bring in money to the area and the public benefits from these ever-changing, interesting pop-up experiences.

Pop-Ups Actualized

Most brands have been taking full advantage of the benefits pop-ups offer, with countless remarkable experiences opening over the past few years, enticing the public to visit brand-curated spaces.

Lone Design Club works with independent brands to bring conscious consumerism-focused pop-ups to spaces around London. These pop-ups include layered experiences, such as vibrational sound meditation, professional panels on a variety of topics and industries, and community networking.

Ikea opened a “play cafe” in 2017 to rethink the way we use and view our kitchens. People could come in, enjoy some of their famous Swedish meatballs and play games with their friends and families.

Casablanca, a Paris-based luxury brand, held a travel/airport-themed pop-up within Selfridges, furnished with all the bells and whistles of an airport terminal gate. The popup let customers explore and discover merchandise set throughout the space while allowing Casablanca to test a physical retail store for the brand.

Many other luxury brands have been able to invest in the pop-up economy and are finding ways to evolve the landscape. In July 2022, Hermes held a gym-inspired pop-up in LA with live fitness classes, lifestyle-inspired merchandising, cocktails, live DJs, and more. These pop-up spaces give brands the endless freedom to curate specialized experiences to inspire, educate, entertain, or simply interact with guests. The L.A. experience is just one of several HermesFit popups around the world including Brooklyn, Tokyo, Paris, Bangkok, and more.

Here to Stay

Don’t expect to stop seeing them anytime soon, as modern pop-up culture has taken the retail world by storm and proven its value to retail strategy. Pop-ups are here to stay and are becoming more valuable as part of the retail ecosystem. They have revolutionized retail hubs and have benefitted all involved.

DTC Brands Lean Into The Retail Landscape

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Given the cost of customer acquisition and the increase in competition, DTC brands have shifted their strategy, focusing on experiences where the brand story and consumer connection matter more than just building mailing lists and driving people to buy online. The pandemic helped accelerate that shift – as consumers spent more time at home, DTC brands have had the chance to tap into social conversations and fulfill many emotional and essential needs.

From Ecommerce to Experience

DTCs are using their digital native savviness to put themselves where their customers are – not on a website, but in social media (think: DTC brands like Dr. Squatch on TikTok) and in video games (think: Marc Jacobs in Animal Crossing). More than anything, however, DTCs are beginning to focus on opening physical locations – either standalone or in collaboration with existing stores (think: Bark’s partnership with Walmart).

In-Store Shopping Demand Drives DTC

People are ready to shop again in-store, and DTCs are responding. According to Shopify’s recent Future of Commerce report, 32% of brands said they’d be establishing or expanding their use of pop-up and in-person experiences, 31% plan on establishing or expanding their physical retail footprint, and 40% of brands said offering experiential retail will be a top priority in the next year.

“Increased retail vacancies have created an opportunity for a new wave of digitally native brands to experiment with physical retail. The surge of brands into offline channels means retailers must focus on creating engaging and memorable experiences to win foot traffic.” – Shopify

Standing Out to Stand Alone

On a recent trip to Austin, TX, we visited the premier, open-air retail development, Domain Northside, which has one of the largest DTC physical presences in the US. We visited every single store in the shopping district – legacy retailers’ side-by-side emerging DTC brands. Cover the signage though and we couldn’t have told you who was who or what made them unique. A surprisingly cookie-cutter DTC experience for brands that have notably played hard to cut through the noise online.

“Brand building is helping attract and retain customers. Businesses are overcoming the competition by investing in brand building, which increases customer lifetime value, boosts conversion rates in the short term, and attracts out-of-market buyers in the long term.” – Shopify

The Experience Factor

A physical presence means more than four walls. From the right location to on-brand execution and a memorable experience, the equation takes as much consideration and strategic planning as the day the DTC was born. Missing the mark moving from digital into physical could lead to two unfortunate outcomes:

  1. DTC brands misreading the brick and mortar performance based on a failed execution (proper development of the branding, etc.), and
  2. Developers undervalue the DTC’s capabilities in a physical environment and begin to discount them or pass them over for new opportunities (i.e., they will be left on the bench).

Digitally-native brands making their first foray into physical retail have an opportunity to leverage the customers they’ve nurtured and developed online, and expand their brand awareness to new customers. It’s an exciting time to think about getting physical if you’re a DTC brand.

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