Retail Shopping Isn’t Dead…it’s Experiential

Photo by Michael Competielle

On a warm July day, my wife and I decided to take a relaxing trip into New York City and explore some new inspirational spatial designs. Our goal was to buzz around to find retail stores that specialized in making an engaging and innovative shopping experience.

We jumped onto a semi-express New Jersey Transit train destined for NYC Penn Station, a train and subway transportation hub in New York’s famous Chelsea district. Having done a small amount of itinerary planning we felt it best to first head over to the Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in the U.S.

Developed as a 28 acre mixed use developmemt with estimated construction costs in the billions, the project compromises of public green space, residential towers, a hotel, office spaces and a mall.

Walking across 32nd Street to the West Side it was difficult to miss the development with its shining glass skyscrapers and the Thomas Heatherwick designed stunning copper clad interactive sculpture Vessel. With over 2,500 steps on 154 interconnecting flights of stairs interwoven into a hive like structure, Vessel is a great way to get exercise while gaining stunning viewing of the City.

Heading into the Shops at the Hudson Yards, a 720,000 sq foot multi-floor mall with Neiman Marcus as the anchor, we were quickly immersed in visual stimulation.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Lighted interactive kiosks were placed throughout the mall as directories to shops, restaurants and transportation. We walked past huge video display walls with stunning visual motion graphics.

Throughout the mall were interactive art display walls of metallic fabrics and rooms for coloring to inspire creativity and user engagement. Cleverly named “Off the Walls” and created by the Culture Corps., the installations are designed in tribute to the areas past, present and future.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Wandering from shop to shop the user interactive kiosks and experiences were everywhere. From the cool techie retail-as-service store B8TA offering well designed displays of speciality products by small unknown manufactures and also offering “Built by B8TA” products.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Heading across town we headed to 5th Avenue and uptown to the Adidas Flagship stadium inspired store. Built as the largest Adidas store worldwide, the design concept hopes to develop brand identity to another generation of customer. With a stadium styled tunnel entrance, locker room style dressing rooms, and multiple floors of apparel, accessories and sneakers there is plenty immersion. Large video walls on multiple floors, stylizing kiosks, stadium seating for game viewing, tracks and field areas to try and experience the sneaker offerings.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Designed with Adidas Checkland Kindleysides and Gensler the store was sustainably designed to mimic old high school gymnasiums with exposed concrete, raw wood bleachers and large stadium lighting. A 360vR experience tells the story of the making of a new sneaker.

Jumping onto a subway headed to Nike Soho we entered the 5 story Broadway and Spring Street store. Large video screens again with Nike commercials were playing amongst racks and shelves of Nike sneakers and apparel. Lit glass display cases showcased specialized models and options.

Escalators took us floor to floor of soccer fields, treadmills and basketball courts to demo products within a real world environment.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Further down Broadway we entered into the huge multi-floored Dolby Sohointeractive store. Currently setup to promote The Lion King film in theaters at the time we decided to explore further. The front room filled with 3 of 4 walls of video screens playing a vibrant waterfall scene.

Walking room to room we experienced more Lion King videos in 360 degrees with Dolby Immersive Atmos Sound.

Photo by Michael Competielle

The 2019 CGI animated film has rich visuals with stunning blacks and high dynamic range.

With lifelike hair, water and animals movement the film is easy to get lost in. The object based Dolby Atmos sound firmly placed the viewer into jungle.

Heading to the lower floor was a DJ in Atmos as well as a screening room. Reviewing films in the screening room allowed for the testing of standard color rendering vs Dolby Cinema color.

Kiosks we’re placed on walls to display the Dolby Atmos headphones sold at a discounted rate on that day.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Leaving New York at sunset we were able to see the brightly lit City. Having for years worked in NYC this relaxed visit was a different experience. Fully immersed in the various stores spatial designs and experiential designs we left the City with a renewed faith in retail and its future experiential existence.

The Building of a Cult Brand and Following

Photo by Michael Competielle

The terms cult following or cult classic are used frequently to describe innovators of products, brands or companies that have developed a faithful, dedicated and passionate fanbase. These cult innovators unique brand identity builds a loyal fanbase that exhibits brand loyalty by purchasing the companies current and future products while discounting competitors moves in the market.

Companies such as Apple are a prime example of an innovative tech company with a cult following producing luxury tech products and services. With multiple annual announcements on product developments and releases, early adopters lineup outside stores awaiting the opportunity to be one first to showcase the lastest offerings often by creating product unboxing videos, published articles in tech forums and blogs.

Competitors will race to reverse engineer the products in an attempt to develop similar products often purchased by the early majority and late majority.

With the innovators making up 2.5% of the market, early adaptors 13.5%, early majority at 34%, late majority at 34% and the laggards taking up the remaining 16% it’s essential for cult brands products to live the entire lifecycle.

Photo by Michael Competielle

So Why Join the Cult?

  • The products just work
  • Product support and updates even after product EOL
  • High Resale Value
  • Market Dominance

Cults followings are created by users of great products. Who’s best in action cams? GoPro and why? They work, they work well, they are supported, maintain a resale value and dominate the market.

Need proof ask the likes of Casey Neistat.

Casey is an innovator and a brand influencer. Does that mean you send Casey a product and you’ll receive instant sales? Well yes if your products work. If they don’t…. Not a wise idea.

Enter Lululemon

Cult following? You bet your yoga toned ass. Not a question Lululemon has placed a severe dent into the world of Technical Athletic Clothing. And just to be clear since 2017 in Men’s clothing as well. Marketing to brand influencers like yoga instructors and gym trainers, Lululemon has a cult following that fills a healthy share of the.. wellness/ health/ fitness clothing market. And for men there are active offerings including the Warpstreme active dress pants.

With a high concentration on a quality product and/or service, not discounting products, ensuring the entire product chain from design, marketing, sales and service is of uniform importance brands can obtain cult followings.

Deeply discounted goods, deceptive sales tactics and poor customer service or experiences are the demise of a brand and subsequently the possibility of achieving cult status.