Monday, April 29, 2013

Sell Experience, not Products

There may be a time in the not too distant future when we  look back fondly at shopping trips being for the purpose of buying products. Why? Retailers are transforming their offerings from a focus on merchandise to creation of immersion experiences for their patrons. Shopping is evolving from a functional task ("I need a new pair of running shores") to a hedonic experience ("I am entertained while buying running shoes"). Sports marketers should observe closely developments in the retail industry for inspiration on how to enhance the augmented product (amenities that add value to the consumption experience).

One example of creating experiences to transform the retail shopping experience happens to come from the sports industry. Sports Chek, Canada's largest sporting goods retailer, opened a model store in downtown Toronto that could be a glimpse into the future of shopping. The Sports Chek "retail lab" concept is not your father's sporting goods store- technology heavily influenced the design of the store. Among the technology-influenced experiences shoppers have in store include:

  • Tile, tablet, and touch screens that enable delivery of customized information
  • Adidas "digital shoe wall" that shows images, videos, Twitter feeds, and info on athletes using Adidas products
  • Reebok build-your-own-shoe kiosk
  • Customization of ski and snow boards and boots
  • Digital community board that brings the store bulletin board into the digital age with info on community sports leagues, local events, and connects customers with each other.

There are too many features of the Sport Chek retail lab experience to list here. The point is that when marketing experiences, the product is merely part of the cast and not the star of the show. As marketers, we cannot lose sight of the fact that people do not want our products or our brands (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). Instead, they want what products or services do for them to make their lives better- added convenience, more enjoyment, or greater empowerment- whatever brands can deliver will be embraced.

Marketing experiences rather than products is the proper mindset for marketers to embrace as they seek to differentiate their brands from competition. Technology can be a complementary component for creating unique experiences, but integrating technology into the experience should be done in ways that add value for customers. Sports Chek seems to succeed as much of the technology integration benefits shoppers by giving them more product information or better customer service. Whether technology or personal interaction is used, a focus on creating valuable experiences can add a layer of benefits to a product that attract and retain customers.

SGB Weekly - "Sport Chek Launches Digital Lab Concept" (page 14)