There really is no substitute for experience

March 07, 2019 - 07:00

On busy Orchard Road in Singapore is a very famous hotpot restaurant where customers have to wait an hour or two to be served even if they had booked a table a day ago.

Customers shop at an Auchan supermarket in Hà Nội’s outer district of Long Biên. The Auchan group is France’s second largest retail distribution network with stores opened in 17 countries, including Việt Nam. As a developing country, experts believe Việt Nam has a lot of room for modern retail to develop and its retail sector has started to embrace modern trends. — VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng
Viet Nam News

Thu Ngân

HCM CITY — On busy Orchard Road in Singapore is a very famous hotpot restaurant where customers have to wait an hour or two to be served even if they had booked a table a day ago.

Every night from opening time the restaurant is always full with a long list of customers waiting.
Surprisingly, no one is tired and for many years the restaurant has been an ideal destination for both locals and tourists.
Not only good food but also the experience while waiting is a reason that encourages customers to hang around.
Next to the main restaurant, the owner has set up a corner where customers can rest and drink tea or eat fruit. Next to this is a place with many toys for children to play.  Women can go to a manicure shop while waiting. 
There is nothing better than getting the nails done or having a good time playing or chatting before enjoying hotpot.
The restaurant is a clear example showing that the retail market is changing and retailers are making an effort to bring more experiences to clients.
As part of this new trend customers have the chance to enjoy many new experiences in addition to the main services and goods they plan to buy.
Experiential retail is now more relevant and easier for retailers as many are investing money to develop and apply advanced technologies in their operation.
In fact, “experiential retail is the future of retail” was the forecast by media and companies worldwide years ago.
Two years ago in a report, Storefront, the world’s online marketplace for renting short-term retail space, predicted: “For years, we have heard stories of the apparent decline of the high street and the subsequent rise of the internet as if this was a trajectory impossible to reverse. 
"But as the desire for experiences has risen, for example millennials said 52 per cent of their holiday spending would go on experience-related purchases compared to 39 per cent of older customers, this trend could be about to reverse.
"As consumers choose to invest in experiences rather than products, retailers need to respond to meet the needs of their customers. Customers don’t want to just walk into your shop, buy your product and leave because they could do this in the comfort of their own home.
“Experiential marketing isn’t about spending millions on fancy gadgets for your retail store. Sure it can help, but it’s mostly about a personalised shopping experience and providing an unparalleled retail experience for your customer.” 
At a recent seminar organised in HCM City to discuss the future trends in Vietnamese retail, Rebecca Pearson, associate director of CBRE Retail Service Asia, concluded that “retail is all about experience. The store experience must wow customers.”
Though her conclusion was just one among many trends discussed at the seminar, many experts and retailers concurred with it. 
Experts said: “Experiential retail plays an important role in the future of the retail sector. It decides how the retail sector will be in future.” 
To prove their point, they cited examples of what retailers around the world have done to bring more experiences to their clients.
For instance, Nike House of Innovation in Shanghai uses 4,500sq.m for customers to experience its latest products and gear and enjoy speaker sessions, workshops and digitally-led trial sessions. 
Other brands also offer various experiences including a technology that allows customers to see how they look in a certain garment.  
A mall in Egypt has changed its 185,000sq.m area into spaces that offer customers more experiences like colourful fashion shops and attractive food and beverage areas.
Việt Nam to follow trend
As a developing country with a huge millennial population, Việt Nam has a lot of room for modern retail to develop.
And Việt Nam’s fledgling retail sector has embraced modern trends like bringing more experiences to customers. 
Speaking to Việt Nam News, Đinh Thị Mỹ Loan, president of the Association of Việt Nam Retailers, said: “The face of the retail market is changing in Việt Nam. The sector is  developing strongly towards modern trends.
“Retail in Việt Nam now is not stopping merely at buying and selling. It is also the experiences and feelings that customers have when buying. These are experiences related to technologies, new creations and society.”
This trend has been embraced by both domestic and foreign players.
Many retail centres and supermarkets are creating events and spaces where their customers can enjoy or try products while shopping.
A shopping mall, SC Vivo City in HCM City’s District 7, organises entertainment programmes every weekend on its first floor. Here, booths are regularly set up so that customers can try new products from brands or play games or enjoy spaces set up based on the latest movies.
At MM Mega Market, a giant wholesale supermarket, a corner called Food Solution is set up to bring more experiences to customers.
A spokesperson for the supermarket told Việt Nam News that Food Solution has chefs and a range of different programmes, and is very popular with shoppers.
She said new menus are introduced regularly. 
Food Solution is also a place where the supermarket’s chefs teach cooks from canteens and restaurants to use new cooking materials. There are also bakery classes for kids and this is also a place where clients can try new products, she said.
US beverage company Starbucks has many programmes for customers. Corners selling products printed with Vietnamese symbols at its stores always attract young people.
Starbucks has also opened Starbucks ReserveTM Coffee Bar in HCM City and Hà Nội. Customers are promised an extraordinary coffee experience that would draw them closer to Starbucks coffee and baristas than ever before, the company said. 
In addition to the classic Starbucks menu, customers are also introduced to the Starbucks ReserveTM bar, where the flavors are unusual: each Reserve Espresso beverage made with a Black Eagle machine delivers smooth quality and consistent taste, it said.
With its one-of-a-kind coffees sourced from small coffee-growing regions in Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific islands, Starbucks ReserveTM bar comes to life at the hands of Starbucks Coffee Masters performing a variety of brewing methods like Siphon, Pour-over and Chemex, it said.
Giant retail company Vincom Retail told the seminar it too is embracing the trend of bringing experiences to clients.
Trần Thu Hiền, deputy general director of Vincom Retail, said her company would organise four marketing campaigns this year and have special programmes for women during both the international and Vietnamese Women’s Day.
During these campaigns, customers would have the chance to experience many services, she said.
At Vingroup’s supermarket chains, VinMart and VinMart+, there is a corner called “Our Kitchen” where clients can enjoy foods prepared by chefs. A kids zone is set up for children with toys and books, and coffee corners for adults.
As the modern retail channel accounts for less than 30 per cent of the country’s retail market yet, there is enormous room for retailers to develop. 
The winners will be the ones who know what their clients want and how to “wow” the clients. — VNS