Playful Stores

20. July 2023, MAXFIVE

Turn the shop floor into a playground? Have your initials engraved on your mobile phone cover? Make your mark on the in-store graffiti wall? All of these are examples of a playful store, which makes shopping a playful experience – and may even have what it takes to give bricks-and-mortar retail a new lease of life.


shopping experience

Playful store – what’s it all about?

To put it simply, it’s a concept that focuses on generating a captivating shopping experience rather than squeezing every last ounce of productivity out of the retail space. Retailers have come to the realisation that it is very hard for bricks-and-mortar stores to compete with the convenience and product range that online shopping offers – in response they are turning their shops into something that the internet just can’t offer: real-world experiences.

The concept of playful stores, also known as “Experiential Retail” or “Retailtainment”, is currently in the spotlight for a reason: according to a study by the software company Shopify, one third of consumers would be happy to take advantage of retailers’ in-store experiential offerings. Access to exclusive services or experiences – as well as a personal relationship with the brand or shop – are among the strongest drivers of brand advocacy. So creating positive memories through unique experiences for customers seems like the obvious thing to do.

And for retailers, this means it may well be worth sacrificing a bit of “space productivity”, while still offering people the products they want and delivering the kind of experiences that their online competitors cannot match.

Aother way of attracting customers to bricks-and-mortar retail.

Or, in the words of commercial property marketplace Appear Here: “People are looking for ways to fill up their Instagram feeds as well as their shopping bags.” Ultimately, the positive associations conjured up by the playful experience can also help to sell the product. But retailers need to be careful and ensure that entertaining elements are combined with informative aspects: simply offering customers playful or humorous experiences with no discernible connection to the product has been proven to be an ineffective way of going about things.

Ideally, bricks-and-mortar stores will become a kind of interactive showroom where people can experience products with all their senses rather than just looking at them on a screen. So rather than playing out at a physical store checkout, the actual purchase process and physical transfer of goods can also take place via an online shop and delivery services.

Shopify ’s findings also revealed that more than half of shoppers prefer to appraise the product in-store and then buy it online.

Examples of playful stores done right

1. Nike House of Innovation


The Nike Houses of Innovation in Paris, Shanghai and New York deliver an interactive, digital shopping experience for shoppers via various playful elements. Driven by augmented reality, customers are sent on a scavenger hunt through the flagship store, where Nike’s product range is also presented. Customers scan the QR code at the store entrance before following an interactive map and work off a to-do list on their smartphones by mastering various AR-based minigames tied to the Nike range (football, basketball, etc.). Anyone who successfully completes all the challenges is given a physical gift with various branded goodies.

2. Casper NoHo


Mattress manufacturer Casper Sleep’s New York store not only offers a wide selection of mattress models, but also provides customers with private consultations in mini model houses. In the adjacent Dreamery, everything revolves around creating the ideal sleeping environment and atmosphere. Here, customers can rest by appointment in special sleep pods featuring different types of lighting, fragrances and sounds.

3. Lengermann & Trieschmann Sporthaus


Osnabrück fashion and sports store Lengermann & Trieschmann has come up with a way to combine product sales and a playful consumer experience. In addition to swimwear and surfing equipment, customers will find an indoor surfing arena complete with wave machine. After picking up a new pair of hiking boots, shoppers can put them through their paces right away in the City Gym. Part of the store, it simulates Alpine conditions and even offers an altitude training experience with a lower concentration of oxygen in the air.

4. Samsung Experience Stores


At the Samsung Experience Stores, customers enter a tech playground brimming with Samsung products. Besides VR experiences and a gaming lounge, it even has a personalisation corner where customers can have their own devices engraved (with technical support, of course).


All experiences have one thing in common: they all run on normal Samsung products that customers can buy themselves. Tech demos and workshops are offered in an adjacent seminar lounge. Samsung presents its smart home solutions in their natural environment: a kind of replica smart home where numerous interconnected products react to customers in real time – just as they would at home.

5. Coach New York


In its New York pop-up store, leather goods manufacturer Coach showcases the full spectrum of what a playful store can do: “an immersive experience for all the senses” is what the shop is going for, as the company puts it. In the store, which is more museum than retail outlet, customers pass through different sets – a New York underground station, a fairground scene, a mystical forest – where a wide variety of interactive opportunities await.


Among the experiences: customers are given a chance to shape the look and feel of the store by adding their own graffiti to the replica subway station. In the fairground scene there’s popcorn to enjoy, and a tarot card reading is part of the visitor experience in the mystical forest. All of the individual rooms are Coach branded, making them both Instagram-ready and advertising-friendly.

The last word

Playful stores and experiential shopping are not just creative ways to keep bricks-and-mortar retail going in the age of online shopping, but they actually have the potential to give it a whole new appeal. After all, the good old store still has multiple major advantages over the internet: it offers space for all the senses and for face-to-face social interaction.

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