Brand Experience Centers (BECs) are exactly what they sound like: a physical space where consumers can immerse themselves in a brand’s world. This new ‘unstore’ trend is popping up across the country and shaking up the marketing world, leaving many to wonder: why are BECs so hot right now?
Today’s consumers are tired of aggressive, in-your-face marketing campaigns, giving BECs a chance to really impact visitors through a hands-on, full-brand immersion — free of overt pressure to purchase a product. These spaces aim to create emotional connections that build consumers’ interest and convert them into brand ambassadors. Word-of-mouth referrals spark audience curiosity to check out BECs for themselves.
What makes a successful Brand Experience Center? Like any strong marketing campaign, brands must fully commit to developing and implementing each engagement tactic. By visiting various BECs and drawing from our experiential background, agencyEA experts compiled a list of tactics brands can use to effectively tell their story:
- Inspired Design: Don’t underestimate a quality aesthetic, especially when social sharing can drive significant word-of-mouth referrals. Using the brand’s products in cool or unique displays leaves a lasting impression on the store-goer and will definitely inspiring sharing via Instagram.
Who’s doing it well? Can you imagine taking a first date to a furniture store? Restoration Hardware’s BEC, located in Chicago’s Gold Coast, has made this idea not only acceptable, but popular. They built a luxurious showroom that incorporates RH products and paired it with a café from a popular Chicago restaurant group. While the food may be award-winning, when people leave, it’s the high-end, styling of the indoor garden and four-levels of interior design they’re talking about.
- Fresh Programming: Just as retail stores update their offerings seasonally, BECs need to give visitors a reason to return. Two smart ways to engage target markets are to offer a diverse events calendar and refresh activations quarterly.
Who’s doing it well? Located beneath its NYC Flatiron location, Lululemon’s HUB Seventeen hosts a variety of wellness workshops and exercise classes corresponding with timely themes, like March Madness cardio classes or a Ayurvedic Spring Detox Dinner demonstration. With a continually changing events calendar, Lululemon is engaging new audience segments while keeping regular customers guessing what will be next.
- Lead Capture: Attaining consumer information without openly hustling for data is an art form. BEC visitors should be so engaged by the environment's interactions that they don't think twice about giving up their information.
Who’s doing it well? Samsung 837, Samsung’s ‘unstore’ in NYC’s Meatpacking District creates five opportunities for lead capture — on their first floor alone. What’s even better, Samsung entices visitors to willingly share their info by delivering unique content and never-before-seen technology. The exchange of information is simple, intuitive and natural, making it easy for visitors to share their in-store experience in real time.
- Authentic Partnerships: Partnering with like-minded companies on a BEC can help brands better communicate their unique vision and purpose.
Who’s doing it well? The Cadillac House in NYC’s Soho neighborhood employed Visionaire Magazine, the CFDA and JOE Coffee to help appeal to trendy locals. By incorporating a variety of industries, Cadillac created a space that positions the brand as a hub for all things cutting-edge and innovative.
- Interactive Tech: Utilizing the right technology at an in-store activation is essential for today’s consumer — who is often bombarded with brands offering tech for tech’s sake. Digital experiences should complement the brand’s story and products in ways relevant to the store location and target audience.
Who’s doing it well? The recently opened FordHub in New York’s Westfield World Trade Center developed a state-of-the-art VR experience where users assemble a Ford Mustang on top of the Empire State Building. The activation, which offers 360-degree views, simultaneously educates and thrills the user. It’s a memorable experience consumers have been eagerly sharing since the store’s opening two months ago.