Creating Experiences that Millennials Love

Woman holding cell phone

By Tricia McKinnon

Technology will never replace the need for human connection. Perhaps that is why millennials gravitate towards experiences.  Starbucks is popular for a reason. It is not just about getting your favourite latte it is about spending time with friends, studying or having a business meeting over a cup of coffee.  Starbucks is one of the best examples of when experience-based retailing works.  Starbucks plays great music, the baristas are always smiling and they never seem bothered if you want to spend 5 minutes, an hour or all day there. 

Eating out and going to live events are among the top experiences that millennials are willing to invest in.  They are also much more likely to spend money on taxis, Ubers and expensive coffee than older generations. 

What Various Generations Spend Their Money On


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Source: Charles Schwab, 2017

Source: Charles Schwab, 2017

Another category of experiences that is popular among millennials are fitness classes like the ones offered by SoulCycle.  Fitness classes tap into that sense of community that all human beings crave.  Achieving a challenging goal is always more enjoyable with friends. Given the popularity of social media it is not surprising that millennials are still social creatures when they are offline. 

How Nordstrom is Leading the Way With Experiences

Since millennials love experiences, what are the types of experiences that retailers should invest in?  The best in-store experiences are the ones that cannot easily be replicated online. They include personalized service, knowledgeable sales associates and entertainment. 

Nordstrom is a retailer that is providing innovative experiences that should resonate well with millennials.  In September 2017 Nordstrom launched a new store concept called Nordstrom Local.  Nordstrom Local stores are small.  They are only 3,000 sq. ft and they do not carry dedicated inventory. They are a fraction of the size of a typical 140,000 sq. ft Nordstrom store.  The stores are focused on service and providing a great experience.  Some of the services offered at Nordstrom Local stores include:

  • Personal stylists – Stylists, free of charge, curate outfits for customers to try on 

  • Buy-online, pick up in store – If an order is made before 2 pm it can be picked up the same day in-store

  • Style boards – Nordstrom staff create digital boards with personalized fashion recommendations for customers.  The boards can be viewed on the customer's phone and purchases can be made directly online  

  • Manicures – are also available in-store

  • Beverage bars – customers can have a drink of wine, beer, cold pressed juice or espresso, to add to the fun of the shopping experience

Nordstrom Local, West Hollywood California

Nordstrom Local, West Hollywood California

If retailers want to tap into the experience economy they should think about how to shift stores from being more transactional in nature into places where people can meet and do things with others.  The local community centre may not be as popular as before but the need to connect with others in person is something that is not likely to go away anytime soon.

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