Creating an immersive experience

by Karen Kritzer

There’s no question of what’s on every retailer's mind: what is the future of "brick and mortar" stores? How can we get customers into our stores and keep them coming back? It’s a hot topic. You can’t pick up a magazine or scroll through social media without reading discussions around this very issue.

The immersive experience always comes to mind as a way to attract customers. Keeping people engaged and offering them a memorable in-store experience is a logical strategy. There are lots of creative examples on the market. You can visit a champagne bar and eat gourmet fair at Pusateri’s while shopping Saks Fifth Avenue in Toronto. If you are in New York City, you can shop for a new polo shirt then go to The Polo Bar, Ralph Lauren’s signature restaurant.


Pair up with another product or service – save your customers time and become an expert in your field.

Let's not discount the countless examples of the one-stop shop, where not only can one buy a new wardrobe piece but also pick up dry cleaning, wine and get their hair done while waiting for a prescription to be filled.

What does this mean for a small-scale retailer? How can one apply the basic ideas of this concept?


  • Think of pairing up with another retailer or a service that complements your business. Pair a dress boutique with a seamstress or a bridal boutique with a floral designer. Not only will this help the customer as it saves time but they will view you as a credible brand.
  • Why not offer customers an information session about a new product line? Initiate a small launch party with giveaways to create a buzz around your brand. Fashions shows or trunk shows take more planning but always bring in a crowd.
  • Check your calendar! Chances are your customer needs something based on a monthly event or celebration. Build themes and events around the time of year and think about what people are actually doing. For example, spring is the perfect time to set up a table of fresh flowers and group a collection of bright, colourful products.


Provide an information session to create buzz about a new product or plan a fun in-store launch party.
Seasonal themes are cost-effective ways of promoting products that customers may need.  This lemonade stand within a beauty department at Saks Fifth Avenue is an example of how simple and small it can be. These always keep customers engaged and happy!

There may truly be something to the whole immersive experience concept. There is something comforting about being able to grab a hot tea from Starbucks on a rainy day while browsing the aisles of Chapters – usually a few products end up in the hands of customers while doing this.

Arguably, generating interest and traffic into a store is just as valuable as making the sale, as it creates brand awareness and loyal followers.


Karen Kritzeris from Organized & Stylish a freelance visual merchandiser with over 12 years of retail experience.

As a small business owner and freelance visual merchandiser, Karen can relate to the everyday challenges that retailers are faced with. The 12 years of experience she has with various top name brands and small independent retailers allow Karen to create unique action plans that achieve results for her clients.

The Toronto Gift Fair welcomes Karen as a Retail Solutions Seminar speaker for its fall 2016 program.