New concept turns retail store into a theatrical experience

Discussion
Source: Showfields
Jul 19, 2019
Matthew Stern

NYC retailer Showfields, a brick-and-mortar showcase for mostly online brands, is getting in on the experiential act with a theatrical guided tour called House of Showfields. 

To begin of the 20-minute immersive tour in the Showfields store, actors show customers the way through a hidden door on the third floor behind a bookcase (from a Showfields-hosted brand), according to a media release. The door leads to a spiral slide down to the building’s second floor, where actors then guide guests through rooms where they interact with products from brands that Showfields sells. 

In an interview with RetailWire, Showfields CEO and co-founder Tal Zvi Nathanel expanded on what visitors (who must RSVP for the experience) should expect. 

“You’re going through this very detailed and high-touch type of scene that you walk into,” Mr. Nathanel said. “From the door to the elevator to secret back doors … Everything is really fun and at each part of it you will meet a different actor who plays a different character and walks you through a specific kind of moment, which together have one cohesive narrative. The goal is to arouse your senses, give you a memorable moment, an emotional connection, allow you to connect with other people which are with you in that space right now … to give you a way to experience product in a fun way.” 

Mr. Nathanel would not elaborate on how the experience’s narrative arc will maintain an element of surprise, but said that the actors will portray an array of intriguing characters, such as scientists, artists, creators and explorers.

Throughout the tour customers will be invited to touch, smell, eat and test the products. An actor in character as a spa attendant might demo a skincare product on a visitor or a chef in a cooking-themed scene might ask for assistance using cleaning product brand available for purchase. The tour is free of charge.

Performers in the House of Showfields experience were chosen via an open call on social/casting channels, through personal connections with those involved in the community surrounding the company and through an application page on the Showfields website.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think customers will take part in the House of Showfields experience, and do you think it will drive sales? Could/should other retailers implement guided tours or other forms of immersive experiences to more fully engage shoppers in a store environment?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It is a great showpiece and also a great indicator of the direction of travel for retailers that want to change the face of modern retailing."
"Not only will the Showfields experience drive sales, but if done right, it could drive tourism."
"I don’t know if this concept could be an on-going concern, but it could be interesting as a pop-up in airports or other places with a captive audience."

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13 Comments on "New concept turns retail store into a theatrical experience"


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Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

I am always wary of these “theatrical” stores. They certainly get a lot of press and build brand awareness, but they never last because they never drive revenue or profit. I think if you have to “guide” a customer through your store and explain your concept, there is a problem with the store design and the concept.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

One would have to go through the “experience” before making a final determination. This one may be a little too ambitious (read: out on the fringe).

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

The House of Showfields is certain to be a memorable and sought after experience for some, yet it’s unclear how this will translate to higher conversion or its ability to sustain over the long run.

I admire their sense of experimentation and infusing excitement and the unexpected into the shopping experience. However, when I recommend retail as “theater,” it is not about actors creating a fake or make believe experience that is done to the consumer; rather, that theater needs to be created around the products as they fit in your customers’ lifestyles with the store as the stage. Your customers need to visualize themselves in that theater as active participants and not as onlookers at a carnival.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Sounds like the customer has to be either all in or all out. Sounds like “hard sell” is acting like “fun sell.” Can’t I just cruise around a little and get a feel? This is a tough one to pre-judge, but at a minimum I have to applaud the outside-the-box thinking.

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust

This is great to see – a retailer with some inventive ideas – and while this concept would be difficult to replicate in large numbers it is a great showpiece and also a great indicator of the direction of travel for retailers that want to change the face of modern retailing.

If we put that into the everyday world, why not have more cookery theaters in food stores where chefs demonstrate recipes? We know that when items appear on TV cooking shows there is an increase in sales, so why not do that in-store? Apple has mastered the art of making retail fun by providing product to play with in-store. It does not have to go to this extreme, though it is great to see, but retailers need to do something to engage customers and bring back the magic of making shopping fun.

Bob Hilarides
Guest
1 month 3 days ago

For certain types of products, this high engagement “theatrical” exposure could be a compelling way to introduce the shopper to a brand that then can be bought online frequently … I’m thinking high ring, high barrier-to-trial products with great influencer value. A well-choreographed story conveyed organically and authentically could create the jumpstart such a brand needs. But for most businesses, the cost per conversion would likely be prohibitive.

The question then is, how could other retailers like PetSmart, Lulu, Ulta and Whole Foods lift the concept to reinforce their equity/story?

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Really? Down a slide? Kind of sounds like one of those escape room attractions. Too quirky for me. Maybe a one time event for most customers.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

I don’t know if this concept could be an on-going concern, but it could be interesting as a pop-up in airports or other places with a captive audience.

Josh Clouser
Guest

If this concept operates on a pop-up model, this could be a largely successful marketing campaign. By limiting opportunity, they would increase demand and lower their overhead. Consumers will be interested in this as a unique opportunity though I would anticipate there would be very few, if any, repeat tourers. Look for this to remain interesting as long as the modern news cycle.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

Not only will the Showfields experience drive sales, but if done right, it could drive tourism. Mom and Pop retailers can also benefit from creating a theatrical in-store experience by reaching out to local playwrights and theater groups. Heck, this could even result in more paying work for unknown actors! Definitely a win-win, but I hope Showfields does the groundwork to promote its efforts.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Uhmmmm … wow: remember when you were little and your mom asked you to go out and play, and the episode ended up with an exasperated cry of “I didn’t mean to do THAT!”? People may want “interactive,” but I think this is just a little TOO interactive. I applaud the creativity, I guess, but the point should be to enhance the products, not overwhelm them.

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

There are some brilliant ideas that most retailers can learn from. No one can argue with their goal to “arouse your senses, give you a memorable moment, an emotional connection, allow you to connect with other people which are with you in that space right now … to give you a way to experience product in a fun way.”

But no one is mentioning that ultimately you have sell something. As Shakespeare wrote “All the world’s a stage….”

LAURA RAMIREZ
Guest

I avoid these types of “theatrical” stores like the plague. I want to be able to peacefully engage in discovery, like one would do in an off-price store, and that experience can be replicated across a wide array of store types and sizes when the curation is mindfully done and dynamic. I feel like Showfields is all about bells and whistles which isn’t sustainable and I’ll be interested to see the sales conversion data and whether they fall prey to being a lookie-loo destination that gets “showroomed” but otherwise neglected by visitors.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It is a great showpiece and also a great indicator of the direction of travel for retailers that want to change the face of modern retailing."
"Not only will the Showfields experience drive sales, but if done right, it could drive tourism."
"I don’t know if this concept could be an on-going concern, but it could be interesting as a pop-up in airports or other places with a captive audience."

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