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While an ever-growing chunk of the restaurant business (Seamless and Grubhub) and retail business (Amazon) has moved online, the benefit of drawing customers to a physical space still remains. A visit to a well-curated location can pay off in several ways, thanks to social media and a greater focus on long-term branding. City planners have added experiential aspects to public spaces to great effect, and private spaces are even more ripe for activity thanks to their relative freedom from bureaucracy. In catering to a generation looking for experiences over more tangible purchases, offering consumers something that’s lived rather than bought is the first step in getting those feet in the door. 

We’ve seen a transformation in the typical dining experience all over the city through the explosion in food halls that’s seemed to hit a fever pitch in recent years. Rather than a restaurant where your food choices are a bit more limited, these diverse halls offer street-food cool with a gourmet twist, and an important emphasis on aesthetics. 

These bustling and highly Instagrammable spaces offer both a curated artisanal variety of food types and a dizzying array of choices, which means no two trips are the same. When your job is to bring people in, creating motivated repeat customers is an exciting recipe for success. It’s no wonder food halls are popping up in every corner of the city. By making your retail business an exciting place to be, public interest multiplies with every social media share your customers make. 

Fostering such engagement, whether through #foodstagram shots or geotagging, can spark the FOMO feeling that drives users to experiential spaces in droves. Consider creating a hashtag for your business, something snappy and memorable, and encourage your visitors to share the fun they’re having with their followers. Getting in front of new customers can be as easy as that, especially if you’ve got a compelling experience that demands to be shared. 

On the retail side, experiential spaces also offer something new: physical space as part of a larger brand strategy. Thanks to the ease and convenience of internet shopping, brands have made their dedicated physical spaces a site for meaningful engagement with potential customers rather than a less-convenient sales floor. Here, bringing in potential customers without angling for a prompt purchase can lead to a more long-term customer relationship.

Samsung, in its quest to dominate the tech marketplace, opened in 2016 a “technology playground and digital destination” where potential customers can check out tech-focused art installations, get their images beamed onto a 75-foot screen at the selfie station, and hang out at the cafe. They can also strap on a headset and play the latest VR games, making the space (at least virtually) limitless.

One thing visitors can’t do at this spot? Purchase any Samsung products. Here, “getting them in the door” is the first step towards forming a connection with the brand, one that goes further than a simple one-time transaction. What these spaces do, rather than push product, is carve out a space in the mind of the consumer. All these forward-thinking tech toys are presented with the aim of creating a mental association with the Samsung name. By drawing in potential customers with flashy experiences, they’ll leave with the brand on the brain, rather than merely in their pocket. In a world that’s continually integrating new tech, that kind of brand influence is worth much more than a one-time purchase.

The promise of an enjoyable (and shareable) experience has become a major mover of millennial money. Young adults more than ever are looking for experiences when making spending choices, and brands in both the retail and restaurant sphere are taking heed. By catering to the need for an experience, your business can appeal to this generation’s unique desires, and that can mean long-term profit if done correctly. Creating something worth seeing in person may just end up being the difference between brands that virtually scrape by and the ones that succeed in reality.