Experiential retail, pop-up shops, and catalogs are taking over the holiday season

The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to create memorable, inspiring shopping experiences online and in-store. The holidays bring an increase in store traffic, but consumers are still eager to shuffle through the doors and crowds of department stores and malls for a retail holiday experience.

A recent survey by Bazaarvoice reported that “42 percent of holiday shoppers said they brave the crowds and shop in-store because they enjoy the festive ambiance, and 32 percent consider special holiday activities, such as visiting Santa or ice skating, important to the in-store shopping experience.”

Let’s take a look at what some retailers are doing to engage with their customers during this holiday season.

Experiential retail brings more customers during the holidays

Rather than only selling products, Target is selling ideas and experiences to lure shoppers in for the holiday season. With the closing of Toys “R” Us stores, Target is taking over the toy department. The department store is planning 25,000 hours of holiday play time and events, including inviting children to test out and play with toys and meet and greet with characters from popular children’s television shows. They’ve reimagined toy departments in more than 100 remodeled stores with new toy experiences, new department layouts, oversized displays of popular brands and characters, and interactive play experiences.

Get ready to see more pop-up shops

Online retailers are also launching pop-up shops at various shopping malls and centers. Wayfair opened up two holiday pop-up shops in Massachusetts and in New Jersey for the first time. The shop will have customer service and design experts on-site, how-to lessons on tackling home improvement projects, introduce its new e-design platform, and feature more than 100 samples of custom furniture.

Good Housekeeping magazine teamed up with Amazon to open a pop-up shop, GH Lab, in Mall of America for three months. GH Lab invites shoppers to test and purchase 40 products selected by Good Housekeeping, including Dyson, Microsoft, Nespresso, Samsung, and Instant Pot. Each product in the shop has an Amazon QR code. Amazon app users can scan the barcode, add the item to cart, and checkout. Other brands that are featuring pop-up shops include FAO Schwartz, Build-A-Bear, Party City, and Facebook, which will show off goods from small businesses at nine Macy’s stores.

Store associates are more equipped for speedy checkout

As a direct competitor to Amazon and Target, Walmart is inviting more customers to their stores this year. Walmart is now offering faster checkout at its stores and easier navigation with digital maps. A few weeks ago, the department store began using the “Check Out With Me” device just in time for the holiday season. Store associates will be armed with handheld scanners to checkout customers on the fly. Walmart holiday shoppers are now able to bypass checkout lines and pay for items in different areas of the store using a debit or credit card or Walmart pay.

Catalogs are still holding up strong

Print catalogs are more alive than ever before. Brands like Target, Amazon, Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma are holding onto catalogs for the holidays. With Target’s massive toy inventory of more than 2,500 new and exclusive toys, they’ve launched a Black Friday sneak peek of Bullseye’s Top Toys on Target.com and will be launching a toy gift finder later this month.

Meanwhile, Amazon is gambling on a glossy toy catalog, “A Holiday of Play” featuring the top toy picks from Amazon. The printed catalog is a way for Amazon to bring their online presence to customers in real life. The catalog is also available in digital form through Amazon’s Kindle devices, app, and online. A QR code is placed on each item for customers to scan and add to their online shopping cart, taking them from print to digital in seconds.

The holiday season is a time for joy and magic for customers. They want to experience that magic in the stores as they shop for gifts and tackle the hottest deals. Many retailers are trying something a bit different this year, hoping to attract customers and deliver a magical shopping experience.