Experiential Commerce: Looking Beyond Just ‚"Selling"

» 5 min read


By Timothy Bryan Hunold

Experiential Commerce is the art of feeling like you're buying the right product or experience in a meaningful way and not being sold to. It can be traditionally seen as trying on clothes, attending a wine tasting, or going to a store and feeling like an individual. Buying, not being sold-to is what a consumer wants, they wish to feel like they made the right decisions in their purchases.

As we have increased processing power and made technology mobile and accessible, we have begun to allow smart and connected devices into our lives to serve us, but we have not focused on transactional e-commerce until just a few years ago. Some of it has crept into our lives already through devices like Alexa, being able to buy an item by verbal command. We also have the interactive through things like Augmented Reality (AR) or configurators, and the seamless.

We are almost universally aware of AR applications that show us items in our home like furniture or a TV, configurator a vehicle, or take our measurements for clothing with an application. There is a great use of these experiences in the purchase process but there is also more to it beyond technology.

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In one recent shopping spree, I used two different sites to purchase clothes. On one site I had heavy technology that required me to take my photo for measurements and it generated an avatar of myself in a suit. I felt like the entire process was guided by a personal stylist. The second site was more of a traditional shopping cart on the first impression.

The second site was not tech-heavy, it didn’t seek to focus on single transactions, it helped me assemble a wardrobe of multiple options with confidence in items other people bought, along with reviews. It felt like a look book was being built around items I liked without me feeling like I would look like a party clown in public. I ultimately spent more on the low tech better experience, but a combination of both could have been dangerous to my credit card.

I have a substantial amount of experience in sales in non-traditional ways. I once worked on a series of events for a major auto brand that took our cars around the country where the public would drive our cars and our competitors'. We did not sell a single car, we just gave people an experience, and that is what many brands are doing. Once I was asked to help open an American fashion brand with a French name in the middle of Paris. The secret was to open a wine bar and café in our space, sacrificing retail floor space for a more casual-chic environment.

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In a quick drive around Los Angeles, you can find pop-up experiences for everything from high-end electronics, to clothing where about half of them don’t sell anything on site, they are called “un-stores”. Samsung has a location where people wear their GearVR/Occulus headset for a 5-minute demo and nobody walks out with a product in hand. Then we get something like large chain coffee or bookstores that become a town-center of sorts where not every visit is concluded with a transaction, but where consumers will spend time and become loyal.

Experiential Commerce is not about finding the perfect algorithm to upsell products, it is about finding a way to make customers want to buy something with confidence including things that feel like serendipity even if it is a guided push of products.

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Timothy Bryan Hunold

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