A self-service coffee bar provides added perks.
A self-service coffee bar provides added perks.
A self-service dog wash offers an added reason to visit the physical store.
A self-service dog wash offers an added reason to visit the physical store.
Welcoming dog wash customers screams 'we care!'
Welcoming dog wash customers screams "we care!"
Even the parking lot offers cute pet-themed touches.
Even the parking lot offers cute pet-themed touches.
Keeping customers in the loop helps build a sense of community.
Keeping customers in the loop helps build a sense of community.
High-end displays contribute to an upscale feel.
High-end displays contribute to an upscale feel.
Bright, colorful lighting gives the aquarium area an 'Under the Sea' feel.
Bright, colorful lighting gives the aquarium area an "Under the Sea" feel.
Introducing staff helps personalize the shopping experience.
Introducing staff helps personalize the shopping experience.
Angled displays are designed to encourage customers to walk through the entire store.
Angled displays are designed to encourage customers to walk through the entire store.

Click to enlarge.

PetSmart Goes Experiential

"Experiential Retail" is quite the buzzword these days, as brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to compete in the Age of Amazon.

Recently, big-box animal products retailer PetSmart ventured into this arena, opening its first "Stores of the Future." One is apparently located in New York and the other, which I recently visited, opened on Oct. 21, 2017 in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

These stores are focused on creating an awesome customer experience, and it's obvious from the moment you walk in the door: everything is lighter, brighter, more upscale and in general visually appealing. But the experience goes way beyond eye candy. Here are five standout features any retailer can emulate:

Strategic layout. These futuristic stores are designed to encourage customers to walk around the whole area, not just down an aisle or two. This is accomplished by placing different-shaped merchandise displays at various angles, giving shoppers a broader view and encouraging them to explore.

Educational materials. Instead of just buying a pet, you can learn about them too. Fun facts about betta fish, for example, are posted on the wall near the betta display, giving the impression you're at a museum not just a pet shop. As well, prominently posted event calendars keep customers in the know, creating a family-like atmosphere.

Comfortable environment. The cat adoption area, for example, has eliminated cages with bars and replaced them with futuristic-looking clear cubicles and a well-decorated visiting room reminiscent of hanging out at home with your furry feline friend.

Self-service dog wash. Part of experiential retail is about giving customers a little something extra to make their shopping trip worthwhile. For $10, you can bring in your dog and have access to a complete bathing area and all needed supplies - plus enjoy quality bonding time and avoid a mess at home!

Coffee bar. A free self-serve beverage station is strategically located near the dog wash, and comes complete with a wide variety of choices - coffees, mochas, cappuccinos, teas and even hot chocolate. On a day you were already thinking about making a coffee run, might a feature like this be the added encouragement you need to venture out and buy your pet food as well?

While pet retail may be a very different business from bridal on the surface, the underlying challenges that all retailers face today are similar. PetSmart's response is smart, on-point and ultimately the direction I expect successful retail stores of all types to begin taking.

After all, providing an awesome customer experience is no longer optional - it's a necessity if you want to survive in the Age of Amazon.

 

 

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