Report • 24.08.2023

Be different – be successful

10 examples of how retailers can differentiate themselves in the market with unique shopping experiences

The grey blob – no one wants to be part of it. Small and medium-sized retailers in particular need unique selling propositions to be able to assert themselves against the competition from companies worth billions. But what can these features look like? We have researched 10 special shopping experiences for you that are sure to get the attention of your customers. Although some of these experiences actually come from large corporations, with a little creativity and ingenuity they can also be applied to small and medium-sized businesses.

The five most important questions you should ask yourself to give customers additional incentives to visit your shop:

  • Is my shopping experience memorable?
  • Do my customers feel they are treated in a friendly manner?
  • Do my customers feel personally addressed?
  • Do customers save time (elsewhere) when they visit my shop?
  • Does shopping with me fulfil an additional need for my customers?

10 examples of special shopping experiences

Nordstorm offers its customers an incredible variety of services that go beyond the actual range of goods. In addition to accepting returns and the widespread, but by no means universal, gift-wrapping of purchased goods, customers of the American department stores' chain can even have their shoes repaired, their clothes washed or themselves professionally styled in the shops.

lululemon not only offers sportswear – the Canadian company also makes sure that customers can use these clothes right away. For this purpose, lululemon offers customers free yoga classes directly on site and regularly organises sports competitions. In the flagship store in Chicago, which opened in 2019, customers can exercise, meditate or relax with a coffee on a specially designed floor.

Three people doing yoga in a large room
At lululemon in Chicago, purchased sportswear can be used directly – e.g. in free yoga classes.
Source: Alen Kajtezovic / Unsplash

The French cosmetics chain Sephora has made it its mission not only to sell cosmetics, but also to impart knowledge about their application. For example, the company regularly offers courses for people who identify as non-binary or transgender and want to apply make-up accordingly.

Leisurewear retailer Vans came up with a special event with the "House of Vans". For several days, the company set up an installation with various workshops, a local market, music events and a skate park in its home city of Toronto. Participation in the experience was free of charge for all visitors. A highlight not only for the brand, but also for the city.

A band plays on a stage in a tunnel, with many spectators in the foreground...
The performance of the post-hardcore band "A Day to Remember" was one of the highlights during House of Vans 2019.
Source: House of Vans (Facebook)

Adidas in London is even more modern: at the flagship store on Oxford Street, customers can use an app to take a photo of the shoe they would like to try on in their size. A member of staff then brings the desired pair directly to the customer. Modern changing rooms with smart mirrors and treadmills to test shoes complete the wide range of services.

Showrooming is one of the latest trends in bricks and mortar retail. Alongside many small and large retailers and companies, Samsung has also joined this trend. What is it all about? With showrooming, products don't just sit on the shelf. Instead, environments are created where customers can touch and test them. Whether mannequins, tasting stations or complete rooms – there are no limits to creativity.

A showroom furnished as a living room with a sofa set and television...
A showroom lets customers see and try out products in a realistic environment.
Source: Samsung

A special kind of olfactory experience is offered by cosmetics retailer Lush. The open presentation of the various soaps not only allows you to touch them, but also ensures that the company's branches can be perceived from afar. Even if not all passers-by in the cities find the intense soap smell pleasant, the scent has become an unmistakable brand identifier.

The bed and mattress retailer Casper offers customers in New York a unique experience, although not free of charge: for 25 dollars, customers can take a nap in a special pod for 45 minutes. The pods are equipped with high-quality mattresses and bedding. A bathroom offers users the opportunity to freshen up after their nap. In a city that supposedly never sleeps, this is certainly a welcome offer.

A sleeping pod with brown curtains in the Dreamery by Casper...
At Casper in New York, such sleeping pods make for particularly relaxed customers.
Source: Casper (Facebook)

Things get wild at Lengermann & Trieschman in Osnabrück, Germany – in the truest sense of the word. In the middle of the mall's sports department, customers can immerse themselves in the world of surfing for 45 minutes for 35 euros and surf the "Hasewelle", a standing wave in the middle of the shopping bustle, professionally accompanied and equipped. More uniqueness is hardly possible!

It has long been a matter of course at Starbucks that customers receive a cup personalised with their first name. Even if this service is not appreciated and used by all visitors, it is small details like this that can make the difference in communicating with customers – without investing millions.

A cup from Starbucks with the inscription Bride
Even small things like names or short messages on coffee cups can help personalise the shopping experience.
Source: Caroline O'Brien / Unsplash
Author: Matthias Groß

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