What the Shift in Store Experiences Means for PR

The Apartment by the Line in Los Angeles. Credit Courtesy of Apartment by the Line/Hanna Tveite

I was reading T Magazine the other day and fell head over heals for an article by Michael Rock, “When the Shop Looks a Lot Like Home.”

I’m a woman for whom space and tangible experiences are of the utmost importance. So after reading Rock’s article, that discusses the trend of stores offering an experience that simulates your actual life, I was ready to book a trip to New York.

If you’ve been reading about the trend for stores to offer experiences, you’ll be familiar with Rock’s examples. Want to buy a new shower? Try it out before you purchase at the Pirch showroom in SoHo. Want to cuddle up on a cozy couch while you lust over clothes with a Basquiat hanging out behind you? Go visit The Row’s Upper East Side townhouse.

The Pirch Showroom. Photo courtesy of Pirch
The Pirch Showroom. Photo courtesy of Pirch

Rock provides a deep dive into the history of this trend. Starting with the Sears catalogue and extending to the Internet as the ultimate big box store, we have at our fingertips everything and anything we may need. It is only a click away. So what then, is our need for stores? Rock answers, “What the shop can offer, however, are things difficult to achieve online: an intimate relationship with things, a haptic appreciation of materiality, a personal interaction with a sympathetic helper, an experience that contextualizes objects, a place to socialize with like-minded connoisseurs and, most importantly, a respite from the avalanche of too much stuff.”

He continues, to my jubilation, “A visit to the store may revert back to John Wanamaker’s original dream: shopping as a form of education and cultural edification. Maybe we learn best in the places that we feel most comfortable in: places that feel like our own living room, only nicer.”

So this got me thinking, if stores are evolving to feel like our own living rooms, does this mean anything for PR?

As a B2B technology provider for retailers, your strategy ultimately aligns with your clients’ strategies. If you’re not offering a solution to their problems and you’re not talking their language then you’re not gaining new clients and you’re not staying in business. The press has a similar model for business, if they can’t speak to the retail community’s experiences, their stories don’t resonate.

So what’s resonating?

To me, the trend of stores offering unique experiences aligns with the more general trend of authenticity. Everyone from marketers to your younger sister is talking about a desire to hear real stories, for honesty and uniqueness. We’re seeing this play out in fashion, as designers reflect street wear in recent collections, and in the trend for more personalization in products like Netflix.

To offer an authentic story for PR, consider first what makes your brand unique. What is different about you? What do you value? Ideally, your company has an accessible mission, vision and core values available for you to use as a starting point, but if they don’t, think about your own experience with your company. When crafting a campaign, make sure your language and your story align with these authentic qualities. So, if one of your company’s values is “innovation,” it makes sense to have a quote from your CEO in a press release incorporate the word “innovation.”

Next, think about how you can authentically engage with press who are reporting on ongoing stories. Recently, Ketner Group facilitated some replies for our clients in a RIS News story on Amazon’s “Project X.” The reason we were successful in having our clients’ opinions picked up is that each client uniquely responded to the story, in a way that was authentic to their experience and their brand.

As convenience continues to become a top priority for mass-market brands like Amazon or Wal-Mart, smaller retailers and the community in general will desire more authentic experiences to balance it out. By placing authenticity front and center to your PR campaign, you’ll be able to better appeal to prospective clients and the media.