• Juanita Neville-Te Rito

Testing the Waters of Experience

Kiwi retailers are now fighting harder than ever to connect with customers in an ecosystem that is proliferated with international brands who have deep pockets and shoppers who can self-navigate their experience whenever they like. Further more as there is so much information and content our attention spans are now simply like goldfish and we are attracted to the next shiny, flashing light. Investing in in-store experiences and customer service can help attract, retail and engage shoppers into your brand and store.

A few months ago I had a two week vacation with the family in Bali. I love Bali. It's the right amount of sunshine, surf, food, rice paddies and experiences to keep everyone happy. In a world where if it isn't on Instagram it didn't happen, the retail sector here has embraced "experiences". From the digital search to the final farewell at the door, there were many standouts on a fabulous experience that would make me return or "share the good news" on these experiences.

Image: Blow Bar, Seminyak, Bali

Even the market stall and hawkers who want to sell you a Bintang shirt, fake supreme goods or sarong, they welcome and invite you into their store. They aren't rude but try to sum you up and entice you with ware they think might be right up your alley.

In vast contrast I am writing this on a flight from Christchurch where yesterday I had a mixed bag of experiences largely made up of entering stores where the sales assistant didn't even look up from their phone when I was the ONLY person in the store. Or the sales assistant who was inconvenienced from some administration by having to answer my question.

The business (largely Aussie) in Bali are nailing it. From their day clubs, restaurants and retail they have captured the new, exciting, instagrammable and engaging to draw in thousands of people daily into their business. And those customers linger longer and spend including taking home mementoes of their experience and returning again and again. On top of that, those customers doing the work of sharing their experience and telling the world why they need to go there. What do they do that's so unique? They surprise. delight, engage, involve and remain customer-centric. They invest not for short-term sales but a greater return on their investment.

Image: Motel Mexicola, Seminyak, Bali

Start with the first step

Practically, how can you embark on your journey of delivering retail experiences. Perhaps your first step will be an experiment/test case/trial concept, these are the things you need to do.

1. Apply a lean, start-up methodology

Make sure your objectives and goals are aligned with your business objectives and then break it down. Schedule milestones, deadlines and invite your team to socialise, the test, the learnings, failures and successes and share results. Feedback and ideas will help make the concept stronger and more engaging and commercial.

Ask yourself: Does the test have a clear purpose? Is the concept achievable? How can we ensure reliable results? How will we get the most value out of the trial? Are we applying the right metrics to measure success?

2. Focus on the customer

Be sure to design your concept with the customer at the heart of your planning. Create events specifically with your customers in mind. Use your customers data to glean insights into their preferences, likes and dislikes and tailor experiences to meet your key demographics.

3. Leverage the experience across all channels

To get the most out of the experiment, don't just focus on the in-store experience. Don't exclude potential customers from an experience just because they can't make it to the store. Remember digital and physical experiences are co-dependent - often a customer will learn of the concept through a digital search and are merely a click away from engaging,

You can also showcase images and stories from the experience across your social media platforms and build a mini-branded site to support the buzz on your online store. This is your opportunity to stand out, innovate, improve convenience and boost customer experience. But the vision should extend beyond a short-term focus to delighting your customers and building loyalty, which is crucial to remain relevant and competitive.

4. Retail's Human Proposition, it's all about your people

For an industry that should be all about customer service magic, retail needs to do a better job to get employees to fall in love with it. The industry has a training, investment and morale problem. It should begin by bringing back the right type of taken. It should cast a wider, more creative meet with a focus on people that get culture, lifestyle, fashion and all the pieces that make engagement with the brand and product sales stronger. Old school merchandising will no longer cut it. We need to start from the inside out. There is no use developing a concept if your people aren't at the heart, fluid and open in its ideas. Test titles and performance metrics, including experiential, artful selling, empathy, insightfulness, etc.

5. Elevate Customer Service

Retailers both physical and digital, need to dial up the human touch to deliver better experiences. Our new retail normal required experiences that empower our teams with better systems and conversation to give more space to human interactions, with technology as the informed facilitator. Rethink the shop floor to be more of a lounge and community; places where consumers feel naturally comfortable to connect and explore.

6. Make experiential retail entrepreneurial and part of your culture

Retail is one of the industries most challenged by disruptive entrepreneurs. This is because it is riddled with mediocre offerings and old fashion traditionalists unable to know how to change. This creates many opportunities for others to get it right. Leverage entrepreneurial spirit to create new ventures and out of the box opportunities. Start an innovation budget; give your employees the opportunity to pitch you new ideas and then encourage and incentivise risk-taking. Make sure you have rebels, out of the box thinkers and nonconformists within teams. The future of retail will not be business as usual, and you need independent thinkers to keep you fresh and creative.

7. Tangibalise that Consumer-Centricity means

For your business to thrive at selling to people, it should work on understanding and connecting with people better than anyone else. Really? This concept might not seem very novel but the current state of our industry services as a stark reminder of how badly we perform at this.

Invest in more ways to have your employees connect with consumers, provide them with better insights and information regarding your customers and rethink your incentive-systems to give more weight to finding out why people are not shopping with you, etc. Push product development and marketing teams to frame new initiatives from the lens and journey of your consumer: how will it improve and add magic to their lives? Shara findings regularly and encourage environment uncomfortable with not being driving by consumer insights.

8. Make it personal

In an industry that has had such disruption and angst, finding all the ways in which you can be as insanely relevant as possible is critical. AI technology is largely helping in this domain with better information on both the store level as well as individual shopping behaviour. Bust there is still an opportunity to make products, messaging and engagement more personal. How do you deliver personally curated product journeys? How are you using that data to be more relevant? How are you solving customer pain-point? Personalisation should also expand to the physical environment by dialling up in-store events, personalised product and personal shoppers.

As our lives become more digitally dependent, we will seek more analog and human outlets for connectivity. It's in our DNA. We will want to escape ad experience a creative journey to explore the self.

The remaining space for magic should be all of us. Falling in love, after all, is not yet an algorithm. Let's make retail magic happen again.

A few Bali retail hotspots to check out.

The Blow Bar

Get a blow job and a Margarita.

This is a hair salon with a bar, superb.

Blow Bar, Seminyak Bali


Motel Mexicola

Part of The Chope Group this is one of the most fun restaurants I have ever been to. Merchandise, good food, atmosphere and experience, A party no matter what your age and then you head to all their other venues including their new day club, Tropicola. https://www.tropicola.info/

Motel Mexicola - Seminyak Bali

Motel Mexicola Interior - Seminyak Bali



Make sure you have your sunscreen and party bikini on.


Club Tropicola, Seminyak Bali

Deus Ex Machina - Temple of Enthusiasm

Retail, motorcycles, custom surfboards, barbershop, art gallery, café, cocktails. The ultimate chill.

Temple of Enthusiasm Canggu Bali

Temple of Enthusiasm, Canngu Bali


Revolver Espresso

Coffee, food, cocktails, gallery, retail store and some of the most interesting toilets around. The wallpaper consisted of 1951 magazine ads. Incredibly cool space and constantly filled. The way they "welcome" guests is quite the experience.

Revolver Espresso, Seminyak Bali


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