Retailtainment: the experiential retail revolution

by Warren Richmond | CEO Situ Live

Jan 28, 2021

The blending together of entertainment and retail is not a new concept, but it is expected to reach new heights in the post-pandemic world as physical stores position themselves as destinations of discovery and delight.

Good riddance to the boring aspects of shopping: uninspiring displays, unengaged staff, and endless queuing. Stores will need to bring the magic to the high street to lure people away from their digital devices.

To grab and hold the attention of shoppers within a noisy digital landscape, retailers will need to be creative and provide personalised, meaningful experiences to the consumer.

While ecommerce platforms can also invest in experiential retail strategies, often utilising augmented reality and virtual reality technologies, it’s brick-and-mortar stores which are the driving force behind the retailtainment movement.

In this changing world, it is no longer a guarantee that being in a high-density area will lead to swarms of visitors. For in-store retailers to thrive they need to ensure that visiting their retail destination is an enthralling necessity.

What is retailtainment?

Retailtainment describes when entertainment is used as a retail marketing channel and tactic.

The term was coined over 20 years ago by sociologist, George Ritzer, to describe the growing trend of “entertaining retailing” to attract and retain shoppers. He defines retailtainment as:

“the use of sound, ambiance, emotion and activity to get customers interested in merchandise and in the mood to buy”.

This trend has a few other buzzwords associated with it, ‘experiential retail’, ‘entertailing’ and ‘inspirational retailing’. All with the same purpose of breathing life back into retail.

Retail businesses may use one or many tactics to make the shopping experience more enjoyable, from in-store installations and pop-ups, to live demonstrations and performances.

What defines an experiential retail venue is its metric for success.

Rather than prioritising sales, these spaces are designed to enhance customer engagement and form meaningful connections which ultimately drive brand loyalty.

Through creative designs, textures, and narratives, brands can truly bring their personality and ethos to life, in a way that cannot be matched on a digital-only platform.

Why do consumers want experiences?

It’s clear that consumers want experiences. It is reflected in changes to their spending habits. Consumers, particularly millennials, are prioritising activities over material goods.

Shopping provides instant gratification, yet this feeling can be short-lived and unsustainable. Experiences on the other hand, even if relatively short, are seen to provide longer-term pleasure.

The explosion of social media has helped form an intense culture of FOMO. Nearly three-quarters of British millennials claim that a fear of missing out often drives their need to seek out and share new activities and experiences.

In the post-pandemic world, human interaction and physical experiences will be more sought after than ever. Stores will need to step up to the challenge and start providing consumers with what they really want – unique and memorable experiences.

What does this mean for brands?

It is no longer enough for retailers to focus solely on selling things, they need to sell experiences as well. Consumers want spaces where they can discover and interact with products, make lasting memories, and not feel pressured to make a purchase there and then.

In-store or online, the products themselves are only a fragment of what is being sold. The majority is an intangible emotion - intrinsically linked to the product and brand. A feeling which is formed by the consumer experience surrounding that product.

Building a brand and selling experiences is key to driving loyalty and advocacy. To do this well, brands need to tell a compelling story and consistently delight their customers.

This is where retailtainment comes in. By providing great retail experiences, customers are encouraged to engage with the brands, even after they’ve made a purchase. This provides long-term brand and revenue growth.

Is retailtainment for everyone?

Retailtainment uses brand-aligned entertainment activities to enrich the shopping experience. This means there is no one-size fits all strategy.

The good news is that you don’t need the latest ground-breaking technology to provide memorable retailtainment experiences. The experience just needs to be fun and unique.  

This means almost any business can benefit from incorporating experiential retail into their marketing strategy. This could be through impactful décor, product sampling, live performances, storytelling – the list is endless.

That said, the brands which will benefit the most, will be those whose product value cannot be fully demonstrated online. Think VR headsets, sound systems, flat-screen TVs, and sofas.

There are also many physiological variables that go into making a big purchase. By providing a space for consumers to touch and feel your products you will build brand confidence, as trying out items in-store is 3 times more influential than any other purchase factor.

Why tap into this growing trend?

Yes, retailtainment provides a better experience for the consumer, but there are also huge benefits for the businesses that utilise this strategy.

1. Improved footfall and dwell time  

Humans crave new experiences, engagement and meaning. Retail stores with an eye-catching and intriguing aesthetic will inevitably attract more passing traffic. While fresh, entertaining interior design will encourage people to stay longer to engage with the contents.

2. Enhanced brand loyalty

Customer experience plays a critical role in forming brand allegiance. An exceptional shopping experience will not only attract and entertain customers, but it will keep them coming back for more. Even better, once consumers feel emotionally connected to a brand or retailer, they often remain faithful and are not easily swayed by competitors.

3. Increased sales

While the focus of retailtainment is not sales, by providing unparalleled experiences that consumers recall and recount to friends and family, brands can expect to see a significant uptick in sales as a result. When people hold and experience products, they are more likely to want to keep it as they already feel a sense of ownership over the item.

4. Word of mouth promotion

Satisfied customers are more likely to share and recommend their experiences to others. In a world of overwhelming choice, trusted word of mouth recommendations are what really cuts through the noise. In fact, 20 – 50 percent of all purchasing decisions are directly influenced by word of mouth.

5. Stand out from the competition

In the highly competitive online and offline retail space, it is not enough for retailers to simply address the needs of its target audience, they need to surpass all customer expectations. By utilising retailtainment strategies, venues can be transformed into a thrilling destination for prospective visitors.

6. Data gathering and analysis

Physical stores provide an unparalleled opportunity to collect qualitative and statistical data on customer shopping preferences and behaviour. In fact, it was the extensive technology and data analytics in shopping centres which revealed the growing trend of people seeking experiences.

Four retailers providing retailtainment experiences

Experiential marketing comes in many shapes and sizes. From interactive product displays and features to excellent staff service. Here are some of the stores and tactics which are leading the way:


One of the most iconic experiential stores is Apple, whose customer-centric approach to retail transformed consumer expectations.

By replacing a central pay point, with highly skilled roaming retail staff and genius bars, they created an engaging environment. Interacting with the products is encouraged, ensuring the product capabilities are front and centre.

Jo Malone

The best experiential stores engage all five senses, employing imaginative designs, textures, and narratives to do so. One method is to use the products themselves as triggers, a tactic used by Jo Malone, as visitors are encouraged to smell and layer the fragrances.

The store also offers complimentary hand massages using their products, offering shoppers a highly sensory, relaxing experience while providing the sales associates with a captive audience.


The rise of e-commerce has demonstrated the importance of convivence to people’s lives. So, some stores and shopping malls have incorporated features such as concierge desks, tailoring services and children’s play areas to enable visitors to enjoy the thrills of in-store shopping within their busy lives.

Ikea has a long history of incorporating cafes into its stores, Ger Diewald, Head of Food Operations, explains “when you feed them, they stay longer, they can talk about their potential purchases, and they make a decision without leaving the store.”

Situ Live

For consumer goods brands looking for a flexible, low-risk approach to retailtainment, multi-brand stores such as Situ Live, provide low-cost access to prime retail real estate. Products are brought to life through immersive store design and storytelling, enabling consumers to develop everlasting relationships with the featured brands.

The first Situ Live venue will be launching early October 2021 at Westfield London, and the team are looking for innovative lifestyle brands across one of six areas: Nutrition Kitchen, Mobile Working, On the Move, Fitness and Wellbeing, Future of Sleep and Connected Home.

If you'd like to experience the future of retail first-hand, please contact us on: and we'll show you how we can best deliver for your brand.