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Experiential Retail:

Gen Z’s Shopping Must-Have

Back when consumerism first began, advertising was easy. Companies simply needed to inform their target audience what their product could do, and where it could be found. Whether it was for a car, a refrigerator, or a box of cereal, there was nothing too complicated about marketing.

That simple reality has long since vanished, if it even existed at all. The staggering amount of products on the market, as well as the intricacies of appealing to a diverse range of audiences, has made marketing more complicated than ever. Add in the new channels created by the onset of digital technologies, and marketing begins to more closely resemble more of a mystical art than an exact science.

One demographic that has proven themselves particularly puzzling to marketers in the last several years has been Gen-Z, also known as the Zoomers. This group represents America’s youngest generation of consumers, those born roughly between 1996 and 2012. Despite their relatively minor share of the current economy, Gen-Z presents a potential treasure trove for marketers. Not only do companies have an opportunity to capture the lifelong loyalty of the Zoomers, but they could also benefit substantially from the upcoming historic transfer of wealth that is poised to enrich both Millennials and Gen-Z.

For these reasons and more, it is to marketers’ distinct advantage to work harder to attract Gen-Z consumers. There are many ways that brands have tried to accomplish this, from cause-based marketing to novel uses of social media. One particularly interesting strategy, however, lies in experiential marketing.

Experiential Marketing, for those who don’t know, refers to interactive and often personalized “experiences” crafted by brands to showcase their offerings and win over customer loyalty. These experiences can be digital, but are far more compelling when they involve real-world locations and attractions. Experiential marketing is not exactly new, but there are several promising statistics that indicate Gen-Z may be particularly interested in this option:

Experiential marketing is not exactly new, but there are several promising statistics that indicate Gen-Z may be particularly interested in this option:

  • 56% of Gen-Z say a “fun in-store experience” is important in deciding where they shop.

  • 75% of Gen-Z prefer shopping in-store to online, showing distinct room for real-world experiences.

Even putting these compelling Gen Z data points aside, there are other distinctive advantages to crafting an experiential marketing campaign or even further, experiential retail. For one thing, a physical and/or immersive experience can capture far more attention than a digital-only campaign, giving marketers the chance to cross-promote via social media or even press pieces. Also, marketing experiences represent a chance to engage consumers in real-time, getting immediate feedback on their impressions of the brand.

One of the best ways to tap into experiential retail is through leveraging the latest and greatest shopping technologies. But don’t just dive in head first on a hunch for what’ll work to engage Gen Z shoppers. Back it with data:

What is Gen Z craving from new shopping technologies?

What’s most interesting about Gen Z’s shopping technology desires? 4 of their top 6 offer unique opportunities for marketers to build unique expereinces in store – whether that be through personalization, interactive products, or the ability to “go online.”

Brands crushing retail with Gen Z

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at a few examples of how retailers and brands are tapping into experiential marketing & retail to appeal to a Gen-Z audience:

Pop People! at Funko Hollywood

Funko, the maker of collectible figurines of pop culture characters and celebrities, invited their fans to make their own versions of the classic dolls at their “Funko Hollywood” retail location. Known as “Pop People!” the special event allowed fans to design figurines that looked like themselves. By involving fans directly in a personalized experience, Funko added a fun twist to existing brand loyalty.

Lego Retailtainment & Brick Lab

Lego is adding experiential marketing to their long history of creativity and imagination. At their newly designed retail location in NYC, Lego has introduced Brick Lab, “a world-first retail experience that immerses people and their Lego builds in an amazing virtual world.” Customers participating in the Brick Lab will not only have an amazing, memorable experience, but an opportunity to engage with a classic brand in a whole new way. They’re also tapping into two long-standing Gen Z trends, in personalization and inclusivity. Lego’s Personalization Studio invites visitors to make a memento of their visit. In it, they can reimagine themselves in Lego form, either as a portrait from the Mosaic Maker or an iconic Minifigure from the Lego Minifigure Factory. The recent installation of the Tree of Discovery also seeks to attract the most unique generation yet. The centerpiece of the store is an 880,000-piece model celebrating inclusivity, with a magical wonderland inside hidden through windows in its rainbow trunk.

House of Sport by Dick’s

Dick’s Sporting Goods is taking advantage of the active lifestyle of their consumers by turning retail locations in New York and Tennessee into a fully immersive “House of Sport.”  Featuring an outdoor turf field, a rock climbing wall, and batting cages, the store is designed to engage consumers in “the future of retail.”  What better venue than a sports equipment store to get customers actively engaged in your brand, while tapping into Gen Z’s desire to try out products live?

Adidas Takes Fans to the Future

Adidas’ latest experiential marketing campaign is a trip — literally. To coincide with the release of its newest sneaker range Ozweego, Adidas turned a newsstand in SoHo, NYC into a secret “time portal.” Fans could walk through a hidden door and enter a future version of the city, complete with a collectible magazine and a chance to win new shoes. This is certainly one of the more imaginative experiential marketing stunts on this list, and it got Adidas plenty of social media attention to the delight of their loyal fans.


These are just a few examples of how experiential marketing can help brands leave a lasting impression – particularly for a Zoomer audience. For any brands with a significant retail presence, or even just those with a clear vision, an experiential marketing campaign can be a powerful means to engage fans in a whole new way.

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