How the retail experience will distinguish leaders from laggards

Consumer expectations are constantly evolving. Retailers need to build a sophisticated understanding of how consumers live, eat, shop, work, and play — and use this knowledge to provide value in the right place and at the right time to unlock long-term loyalty.

Opportunities exist across the experience spectrum, whether in lowercase “e” experiences that remove friction from digital and in-store channels or uppercase “E” Experiences that engage consumers with personalization and value both when they expect it and when they don’t.

Customers who receive a great experience report having:

As consumers gravitate toward brands that focus on experience across each individual’s unique journey, retailers will have to find innovative ways to deliver value across the spectrum of convenience-led to enrichment-led experiences. What are those? Learn how we can help you move toward an experience-led strategy

What consumers want across the retail experience spectrum

For “experiences”

Consumers want an experience that is frictionless and convenient, provides the right product at the right place, and enables consumer safety.


plan to shop more online for products previously bought in stores. ²


are visiting stores less frequently. ²


will order online and pick up in-store more often. ²


intend to use voice assistants more often to make purchases. ²


use a smartphone to browse or shop online. ²

There are already several leading social media platforms that provide users the opportunity to interact with one another about products, brands and prior purchases.

For “Experiences”

Consumers seek contextually relevant experiences that are seamlessly tailored to each consumer’s unique preferences and needs and enable the option to have shared shopping experiences.


intend to spend more on experiences. ²


will do more shopping online and only visit stores that provide great experiences. ²


would share personal data for tailored online experiences. ²

Mapping opportunities along the retail experience spectrum 

We now explore how retailers and brands are bringing (e)xperiences and (E)xperiences to life

Woman paying at retail store
  • Automated and contactless shopping

    Expedite the shopping trip and afford greater confidence to consumers through low-contact experiences and enhanced levels of automation

    As consumers continue to enjoy the convenience of shopping from home, they will expect a trip to the store to offer enhanced levels of convenience to their shopping routines. Moreover, in a post-pandemic world, there will continue to be an appreciation for aspects that underscore sanitary conditions. Store experiences that simplify and expedite steps in the shopping journey while reducing “nonessential” human interaction will provide an experience that is consistent with the convenience of digital channels.

  • Anywhere/anytime order fulfillment

    Leverage a brick-and-mortar footprint to offer customers quicker order fulfillment options than what is generally offered by pure-play e-commerce players

    By leveraging store networks, retailers can offer customers quicker shipping and pickup options.

  • Micro store kiosks

    Meet customers where they are in busy locations by deploying small, self-service shopping formats featuring popular, context-relevant products

    Retailers and brands can bring their offerings to customers in locations they frequent by installing kiosks that resemble vending machines or information booths to enable purchases, deliver product information and allow product trials.

  • In-home experiences

    Meet the customer at home by creating shopping journeys in connected devices and the internet of things

    Retailers are looking for new ways to enhance the digital shopping experience. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology is increasingly providing virtual experiences to customers from the comfort of their own homes and gives them convenience and speed to browse items, get personalized recommendations to virtually try on the products and place an order without leaving home.

  • Social shopping

    Drive a sense of community and convenience through a community-oriented shopping channel that is becoming increasingly popular

    Social shopping is increasingly becoming a channel of preference, driving both a sense of community and convenience. 

  • Experiential stores

    Inspire conversation-worthy in-store experiences by featuring the latest innovative products and opportunities for engagement between the brand and the community

    Experiential stores turn a physical store into one that can generate memories. The experiences can include opportunities to exercise within the store, engage with the latest innovations by the brand, consumer food and beverage items, or simply unwind.

  • In-store personalized customer experience

    Tailor personalized shopping experiences and endless assortment offerings for customers using digital technology

    In the pursuit to become more human-centered and truly empathetic to the needs of consumers, retailers can connect experiences across channels (both digital and in-store) by tailoring experiences across channels that “build” over the consumer journey. Leveraging both historical and real-time data from a customer’s browsing behavior to generate recommendations, retailers can anticipate customer needs and deliver orchestrated experiences in the store in anticipation of the customer’s visit.

The authors wish to thank Neera Majumdar for her contribution.

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