Experience Stores: Touch it, Try it and May be Buy it?

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Gartner has recognized a new niche technology: CX or customer experience, but major Indian appliance retailers are way ahead in creating such “engaging” marketing

Gartner’s 2019 Customer Experience Innovation survey, reveals that three out of four organizations surveyed, increased investments in customer experience (CX) technology investments in 2018. The survey suggests that when organizations grow in CX maturity, a greater focus of technology investment is placed on increasing customer understanding.

The top three emerging technologies expected to have the biggest impact on CX projects in the next three years include Artificial Intelligence (53 per cent), Virtual Customer Assistants and Chatbots (39 per cent) and Omnichannel Engagement Solutions (37 per cent).

Experience Zones in India

The Gartner study only mirrors a trend that has manifest itself in India, particularly in the consumer appliance and personal technology space: the large investments that major brands are making in setting up experience zones in major cities where potential customers can touch-and-feel products in a relaxed ambience, before making a purchase decision.

The name of the game is Experiential Marketing, also known as Engagement Marketing, a strategy that engages the consumer and creates a real-life experience that will be remembered and hopefully stimulate a ‘buy’ decision. A variety of technologies are used for immersing customers within the product and by engaging them in as many ways as possible.

Three experience zones in the last 12 months in Bangalore alone

Samsung spent a small fortune converting an iconic Bangalore landmark, the Opera House on Brigade Road which was lying in derelict condition, into a showcase for its technologies spanning household appliances, phones, displays, tablets. The Samsung Opera House preserves the heritage building dating to 1905, even while sprucing up its interior into a cool experience zone for walk-in visitors, embellished by technologies like 360 degree views, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. It is today the largest such Samsung centre in the world.

Xiaomi opened its largest Indian MiHome also in Bangalore, using 2 floors to show not just the products it sold in India, like smart TVs and mobile phones but future offerings like drones, e-scooters, smart washing machines, electric cookers and ( yes!) shoes.

The author Anand Parthasarathy experiencing the Mi ElectricScooter at the MiHome centre in Bangalore

Says Manu Jain, Vice President, Xiaomi and Managing Director, Xiaomi India: “The new Mi Home takes our new retail concept a step above, offering enhanced retail experience to our Mi Fans and consumers in India. The building represents a unique space that encourages people to think, learn, and engage, hence reflecting our drive for innovation. The futuristic concept embodies our efforts to connect the present consumer experience with the future.”

Voice controlled experience

French Electrical and digital building leader Legrand, has created voice-controlled experience centre in Bangalore featuring a wide range of home/office lighting and smart home items. While showing products from its brands, Legrand, Numeric and Valrack, this was the first such showroom in India to be fully automated and voice controlled.

Digital Imaging company Canon has been a pioneer in opening experience zones for camera enthusiasts across the country. These Canon Image Square entres crossed the first 100 even in 2013.

Upmarket audio player Bose knows that hearing is believing: Once customers listen to their premier HiFi systems under the right conditions, they will be more likely to accept the premium asking price! Starting in Delhi, Bose now has a chain of experience centres across Indian metros, each with a sound proof experience room, fitted with its speakers and home theatre systems.

Experience marketing, now a business

Indeed, so convinced are Indian retailers about the advantage in providing a good customer experience, that this has opened up a niche business – creating such customer experiences and experential events. The Mumbai based event organiser Dome Entertainment, recently created a new division to provide such a service – Dome Corporate.

Says Division Head Azhar Morani, “Experiential events or experiential marketing is a unique strategy that combines the enhanced customer engagement that an on-ground event provides with the brand’s image to create a ‘branded’ experience for the customers. It is a way to go beyond the traditional means of advertising and reaching out to their intended target audience and give them an experience of your product or service through the use of events.”

He concludes, “The perfect blend of technology and human interaction is the key to increase engagement and communicate your brand messaging effectively.”

This story is submitted by Anand Parthasarathy. His rich experience, reporting ACE (Appliances and Consumer Electronics) stories encompasses working 15 years with The Hindu as its IT Consulting Editor. He is a qualified instrumentation systems engineer who has worked for 20 years as a scientist on numerous defence R&D projects, and as a project manager for surface-to-air missiles at DRDO.

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