b6aca7a5a1ec4110c9f13f8289a8c365Cara Salpini for Retail Dive

What's the purpose of a store? Technically, it's to offer up products to customers and, more importantly, get them to buy those products. But in recent years, the purpose of a store has been brought into question as startups and traditional retailers alike explore what has become the pinnacle of physical retail: experiential retail.

Or, to specify: successful experiential retail.

The idea of fostering a closer relationship with customers, one that's not just focused on the transactional act of shopping, has led to all kinds of experimentation within stores, with varying degrees of usefulness. Some examples, like basketball courts and soccer fields in athletics shops, are geared toward giving customers a better way to test out the products they might want to buy, while others, like Lululemon's newest concept, are intended to build community around the brand through activities like workout classes, group meditations and scheduled events. 

Working around the human touch

recent study by First Insight found that 78% of women would not feel safe testing beauty products, 65% would not feel safe trying on clothes in a dressing room and 66% would not feel safe working with a sales associate — significant numbers considering women are the target of many categories of retail. Hand sanitizer and limited occupancy were measures most people (80%) said would make them feel safest, though masks (79%) also ranked high.

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