Top 6 Ways to Build Community Engagement in Retail Spaces

The retail experience is evolving. Customers are losing interest in traditional shopping because most products are now readily available online. But that doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar stores and other physical retailers are no longer relevant. Instead, customers are looking for immersive experiences with memorable interactions.

Experiential retailing is about providing customers with unique and interesting spaces powered by the latest technology to foster community engagement. For example, how Coach is using AI-driven cameras to allow customers to try on products outside stores or how Aritzia has added arcade machines to encourage in-store interaction. It’s not just about selling products or services, it’s about boosting customer loyalty and building relationships that go beyond the next transaction. Here are 6 ways to build community engagement and transform your business into a modern retail experience.  



1. Understand Peak Experience Retailing

Before you can create your own immersive retail experience, you’ll need to understand the concept of peak experience retailing. The concept is based on the Peak-End Rule developed by economist Daniel Kahneman. The rule states that people tend to find the peak and end points of any experience to be the most memorable. 

For example, after visiting a modern Aritzia store it’s likely you’ll walk away with strong memories of two points: the time you spent chatting with your friends in the coffee shop (the peak) and the moment you decided to grab a nice t-shirt on the way out (the end). Peak experience retailers have taken that concept and applied it to everyday shopping by creating immersive retail spaces. 

Here are a few other examples of peak experience retailing:

  • Sports stores with built-in soccer fields or basketball courts allow customers to engage in their favourite activities (the peak) followed by a chance to cool-down and browse their products (the end).
  • H&M’s AI-powered interactive mirror lets customers engage in the fun of trying on digital clothing with their friends (the peak) before going to grab the products that best suit them (the end).


2. Create Opportunities for Ongoing Engagement

Many brands are working towards expanding their in-person experiences, and it can be easy to get swept up in the trend and simply add a new gimmick to your store. But creating an effective peak retailing experience isn’t that simple. A new in-store experience might draw more foot traffic initially, but if it lacks meaningful opportunities for ongoing engagement then customers won’t have a reason to return. Repeat customers are vital if you want to build community engagement and grow brand loyalty overtime.

An example of why ongoing engagement opportunities are so crucial can be seen with Vans. The brand’s experiential centre in London, the House of Vans, is a place where customers can build lasting relationships and form communities. Visitors can shop for Vans shoes, or go watch a movie, stop by the café, listen to live music, and explore the art gallery. The centre’s most unique feature is its underground skatepark, which has a concrete ramp and street course for skateboarders to test their skills. Vans has created a retail experience with multiple avenues for ongoing engagement that encourage socialization and community building. It’s not just a place to shop, it’s a place to be.



3. Look for Strategic Partnerships

To keep customers returning, you’ll need to create opportunities for continuous interaction and engagement within your retail space. However, creating an experience that keeps customers coming back is a challenge. That’s why many brands are opting for complimentary retail experiences via strategic partnerships. 

An example would be Starbucks and Indigo, two brands that naturally complement each other. By opening Starbucks cafes inside Indigo bookstores, they’ve created an immersive experience where customers can read a book and get coffee without having to travel between two different locations. It would’ve been a lot more challenging for Indigo to open a coffee shop or for Starbucks to open a bookstore. Instead, the two brands have come together to complement each other and engage their shared community.  


4. Build an Experiential Hub

Individual stores and brands are evolving their retail experiences. But what about shopping malls and department stores? Traditionally, both of these spaces served as shopping hubs. However, younger consumers are looking for in-store experiences—a big incentive for shopping hubs to meet evolving customer expectations.

Companies are now turning mall spaces into experiential hubs. For example, a shopping mall in Houston added Seismique, a 40,000 square foot experiential art museum that uses augmented reality to simulate walking through an intergalactic tunnel. The experiential space was implemented to revitalize an old mall and appeal to a younger audience more interested in finding new experiences. 

As malls evolve to incorporate a mix of experiences from entertainment to shopping, don’t be surprised if you see a pickleball court inside a shopping mall, or if you encounter more digital kiosks and pop-up shops. The goal is to create a destination where customers not only shop, but can engage in a variety of experiences and build a sense of community.



5. Enhance the In-Store Shopping Experience

Department stores are taking a step in the same direction. Walmart is pushing for immersive retailing that enhances the in-store shopping experience. For example, allowing electronics to be displayed without any casing, which lets customers interact with the products hands-on. The company is also expanding self-checkout options and using automation to power their in-store pick-ups. 

On the other hand, Macy’s closed 150 of their traditional department stores. The company has claimed this is a key part of their retail evolution strategy. The plan is to introduce more personal shopping spaces for luxury goods to attract high-end clientele and create spaces to hold in-store events. Another initiative involves partnering with Toys R Us to create dedicated toy shops within Macy’s stores, leveraging the brand’s appeal to drive foot traffic.


6. Optimize Your Retail Space

Fostering community engagement requires an entirely different store layout. You’ll need to optimize your retail space to make room for more immersive retail experiences and customer interactions. This will take a lot of planning, resources, and time. Instead of taking the focus away from your customers, why not make a strategic partnership that will support your retail evolution while continuing to satisfy their needs? That’s where DedOn can come in. Our space planning experts know how to work with brands and take their in-store experiences to the next level.

Our experts can help you:

  • Conduct accurate site surveys that capture real-world conditions, eliminating challenges by catching problems ahead of time.
  • Prevent or fix inefficient store layouts with well-structured and thought out retail space planning.
  • Prepare your store for success with optimal product placements, 3-D modelling, and real-time feedback.


Plan Your Next Step in Retail Evolution

In an industry that’s constantly evolving, every retailer needs adaptability. By being flexible, your business can meet changing customer expectations and build loyalty with compelling experiences that go beyond traditional shopping. Keeping up with change is challenging, but having the right strategic partner can make it easier. Work with a partner who can support your transformation with data-driven solutions and a proven strategy that will help you reach your experiential retail goals. 


Optimize your store for a seamless shopping experiences.


Turn visions into reality through our long-term partnership.