Imagine with us, for a moment, that you’re strolling down the sidewalk of 5th Avenue in New York.
To your right and left you see some of the most popular retailers that the world obsesses over: Tiffany & Co.; Apple; Louis Vuitton; Hugo Boss. All these stores have a few things in common: their marketing campaigns are phenomenal. Their quality is incomparable. Their customer service sets trends. And of course, their technology and fashion inspire hundreds of other brands around the world. But there is one store that you pause at – one store that catches your attention. And the next thing you know, you’ve spent a full hour trying products, instagramming photos (#NoFilter), and even taking a virtual hot-air balloon ride through France (we aren’t even kidding). That’s right – you just stepped into the world of L’Occitane.
Let’s back up just a moment.
L’Occitane has been an international brand for 44 years. It is the epitome of quality, European elegance, and perfect self-care. There are 177 shops in the U.S. alone.[i] Yet, somehow, it continues to be anything but consistent and boring. In 2018, L’Occitane opened its new experiential concept store on 5th Ave. The 1,800 sq. ft. shop “aimed to attract new customers, encourage engagement, and product user-generated content for social media.”[ii] For those of you who have a bit of experience in retail, it may have come to your attention that no where in that list of goals for this new location did it mention new sales or increase in purchases. And that is the key.
Paul Blackburn, VP of Retail Development, Design & Merchandising at L’Occitane spoke at RetailSpaces 2019 about exactly why the company is so hyper focused on what is being called “experiential retail.” While this concept isn’t new – other retailers have been doing it for years – most of the end goals have been focused on getting people to notice a brand above all others and purchase.
“With the ever-increasing prominence of online shopping, the in-store experience is more important than ever,” Blackburn said. “Shoppers still want to see, test, and demo beauty products in real life. They still place a really high value on the immersive experience of a physical store.”[iii]
The 5th Ave. store is one of many similar flagships across the world. Their success is clear – the locations in New York and London have even won awards for Store of the Year[iv] and Outstanding Store Design. Each one uses store design and aesthetics to transport the customer to L’Occitane’s home country of France.
“That same feeling is the feeling [founder] Olivier [Baussan] had when he first walked in the lavender fields of Provence, and that is the same feeling that we wanted to create here.”
The locations also take full advantage of technology to enhance the experience. There is a giant, curved LED video screen above the storefront and an even larger video wall behind the cashier. There are also “immersion pods” that allow the customer to learn about products, the company, and what makes L’Occitane so special. And don’t forget the virtual hot air balloon rides (‘cause we sure didn’t)! It’s one of the many store features that has made these international locations so social media-worthy.
Finally, the stores’ themes are also changed quarterly, so the experience is never the same for any customer. “What do all these ever-changing experiences give us?” Blackburn asked rhetorically. “They give us an incredible opportunity to test and learn. They give us a playground to be more disruptive.” (We love disruptive!)
Did Blackburn have anything negative to say at all about these stores? Just one thing:
“The operational demands of this constant evolution are extremely intense and as a result, I caution everybody: it’s wonderful, it’s exciting, but it’s really challenging.”
Well, Blackburn – that’s where Rogers can step in! It’s no secret that our national footprint is the ultimate weapon against operational demands. We have the power to not only work with companies like L’Occitane on the ground-up construction for these experiential stores, but also help them with their seasonal or quarterly refreshes, their regular maintenance, and even their last-minute emergencies. Rogers really has the power to do it all – and we’re proud of it. In fact, check out some of the work we’ve done for retailers all over the country. (And if anyone has Blackburn’s ear… you know where to find us!)