Selling is a tough task and marketers have been on this constant endeavour to identify the consumer’s Achilles heel. Wisdom has shown them that till the consumer experiences your service, it wouldn’t really touch his ‘weak spot’.
In India, too, marketers have set their bait. Most companies selling high-end products like LG, H-P, Bose Corporation, Nokia and even satellite radio like WorldSpace have taken the ‘experiential marketing’ route, realising novelist Aldous Huxley’s thought – “experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you”.
Marketers are truly carrying forward this vision by setting up exclusive experience zones where the customers can ‘touch and feel’ and undergo a keen desire to own the product. However, the question that looms large is whether the increase in footfall translates to sales figures?
“Yes definitely. We make a decent business for us, which is the reason why we started the Hewlett-Packard experience zones two-and-half years back and are continuing with it,” asserts Manoj Mehta, Country Manager, Premium Retail, HP India Pvt Ltd.
The HP experience zone is designed using H-P branding on the walls and stylish interiors that showcase a range of products in various zones like digital photography, digital entertainment, mobility solutions, category units and consumer desktops. All products have been set up to stimulate a home environment.
For LGEIL, it is not so much a question of sales. Prasanna Raghavan, Product Group Head, New Display Products, said, “Volume is a relative thing to discuss. The concept of X-Canvas studios is not really to get immediate sales but the objective of the business is long term.” Raghavan added that there were some stores that had done robust business consistently, but there were some cities where business was still emerging.
These studios are present in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Chennai, and have an exhaustive range of LG’s plasma televisions and home theatre projectors, amplifiers from Onkyo and speakers from B&W.
Interestingly, to set up a concept store, which would render the desired experience, requires a lot of creativity other than the marketing prowess. For instance, Bose Corporation, pioneers in audio equipment and makers of high-end sound systems for households, automobiles and boats, has been very creative with their experience zone.
Bose Corp has chosen to host 15-minute shows, which leave the consumer invigorated with the brilliant audio experience. Ratish Pandey, General Manager, said, “The experience carries on even after you step out of the show. The purchase may not be immediate, but every consumer who steps out should say ‘if I buy, it’s got to be Bose audio equipment’ and this is truly the vision.”
Pandey reveals an interesting story behind the conception of these experiential stores. “Dr Bose was looking for an audio system and he went from shop to shop in search of that perfect equipment. Despite the effort, he failed to experience the invigorating sound. This is what led to these stores where the emphasis is on not just component specifications but on whether the desired sound waves are reaching you or not,” he said.
WorldSpace satellite radio has also created the experiential lounges where people can just walk in and be surrounded by music, without being irritated by any sales person or having the compulsion of making any purchase. Deepak Verma, MD, WorldSpace, said, “The zones have been a big success down south. We already have two lounges in Bangalore, two in Chennai, two in Hyderabad and now plan to start three lounges in Delhi and another three in Mumbai.”
Meanwhile, other players are also working on the mental psychographics and expanding the number of stores. While LGEIL plans to roll out 25 to 30 such X Canvas studios by December, H-P and Bose are also looking at increasing the number of experience zones. Recently, Nokia also launched their concept store in New Delhi, which has an experience zone where the customers get to use Nokia products in its futuristic, high-tech ambience.
Asked on the cost that goes into setting up such stores, Raghavan said, “The minimum cost of setting up a studio would be around Rs 22-25 lakh and for a large studio it could cost anything between Rs 45 lakh and Rs 50 lakh.” He added that generally LGEIL chose the partners to set up such studios. “The company is very selective of its partners. They should have the ability to provide state-of-the-art ambience and also should be technically advanced,” he added.