Stores Woo Holiday Shoppers With 'Experiences' Like Toy Demos, Robots To Counter Traffic Declines

From toy demos and personalized skincare sessions to free cocoa and cookies.
This holiday season, stores and malls like Target, Kiehl’s and Westfield Shopping Centres are going beyond the transactional product push to hook shoppers with gifts and marketing ploys that are experiential, service oriented and appeal to the five senses.
Retailers and shopping centers are pulling all sorts of levers to counter foot traffic declines with high-touch experiences that can’t be duplicated online.

Target: Free Cookies And Toy Demos
Target is on a mission to spark inspiration this holiday season in a bid to engage shoppers in new and perhaps unexpected ways. “We’re offering guests a variety of experiences – in stores and beyond — that bring the spirit of the holidays into focus,” said Target spokesperson Erin Conroy.

And who wouldn't enjoy a snack during the annual holiday shopathon? In about 200 stores in November, Target dolled out cocoa and cookies to consumers while they shopped.
Also this holiday at Target, shoppers can play with the season's hottest toys during Saturday toy demonstrations through Dec. 17.  The in-store demos near the toy aisles offer parents the opportunity "to see what toys their kids love most before making those important gift decisions

At Kiehl’s, shoppers can give the gift of free personalized skin care sessions with a beauty consultant and can opt to purchase a skincare serum mixed just for them, for $95.
Dubbed Apothecary Preparations, the service launched in all 20 Kiehl’s stores in October, with the goal to bring "bespoke skincare to the masses," according to a press release.
The service plays to shoppers’ growing distaste for one-size-fits-all merchandise and their ever-burgeoning demand for customized products. During these in-store consultations, a beauty consulted guides the consumer through its “dermatologist-inspired” Skin Atlas manual to determine the best blend of Kiehl’s products for their key skin concerns.
If a shopper chooses to buy the resulting blend, they’re sent off with a box designed to resemble a personalized prescription, that's even marked with a six-month expiration date. The store keeps the shopper’s beauty regimen on file. “It’s a blend for you, [which] keeps them coming back,” said Tiffany Mizell, area trainer for Kiehl’s.

Selfies With Pepper The Robot
Westfield Shopping Centers is testing Pepper the robot in its malls this holiday season.
Westfield Shopping Centres is testing Pepper the robot in its malls this holiday season. (Courtesy of SoftBank.)
On Nov. 22, Westfield Shopping Centres started testing a “holiday experience” program around Pepper the robot, which greets visitors, invites them to take selfies with him, teaches them how say "hello" in six different languages, and even plays interactive games.
Before the end of the holiday season, Pepper’s role will expand to serve as somewhat of a shopping assistant, helping malls visitors locate stores and restaurants, and answering their questions about a particular store. Pepper will then offer to text shoppers a link to the right place within the Westfield app, said a Westfield spokesperson, but added that the robot does not store visitors' phone numbers.
Pepper will ask shoppers to take a survey of their experience to help Westfield collect feedback.
The Pepper push comes as retailers look to fresh ways to spark shoppers’ waning in-store engagement, and keep them coming through the door.

“Humanoid robots provide a playbook for customer engagement, and can be viewed as an evolutionary step from self-service kiosks to conversational commerce, combining the two in smart and unique ways,” according to the report, "Utilizing Humanoid Robots for Customer Engagement."

“Today, robots have the ability to entertain customers by dancing, singing, and putting on a spectacle, which can attract customers into the store. Robots that have been used to entertain customers in retail environments have been found to be particularly popular with kids, who bring in their parents and family members.”

But the belief that shoppers will be charmed by robots and that they’ll engender warm and fuzzy feelings is quite an assumption. The potential creepy factor lurks. “Humanoid robots need to overcome a number of challenges, especially when they are being used for direct, face-to-face engagement with customers,” the report said. “As these robots become more human-like, there is a danger that they could fall into the phenomenon known as 'the uncanny valley,’ with human likeability turning quickly from empathy to revulsion.”

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