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Worth A Try

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It’s rare to come across a good idea that isn’t worth, shall we say, “repurposing” for your business’s benefit. So when I see retailers doing innovative things, the wheels start turning. I recently came across two global companies that are diving into experiential retail, and their stories were too compelling not to share.

Australian fashion retailer Cotton On is providing a “mini gig” experience inside fitting rooms called Try On Your Sound. When teens take selected RFID-tagged denim jeans into the fitting room, the tag is read and a playlist of music — individually chosen to match the specific style — begins playing.

Given that teens typically define themselves both by music and fashion, the program strikes the right chord. In sync with the cutting edge styling of the jeans, the retailer chose the music of emerging Australian artists and progressive international acts not yet receiving air play on commercial radio. And it didn’t stop there. Recognizing that technology weaves through every aspect of teens’ lives, Cotton On encourages shoppers to share their experiences with friends by adding #tryonyoursound to their tweets. The company plans to monitor customer feedback in an effort to shape future iterations of the program.

Try On Your Sound is social, local, mobile, engaging, memorable and uniquely targeted to Cotton On’s customer base. At the moment it’s only in one store in a Brisbane suburb, but executives plan to roll out the $50,000 solution to other stores as they are refurbished — up to 40 sites — and to tag new apparel lines as they are introduced.

Meanwhile, The Body Shop has begun showcasing a new prototype called the Pulse Concept. The redesign, expected to be showcased in some 2,600 boutiques in 60 countries, has conversation areas, also known as story-telling tables, designed to encourage customers to linger and learn. Staff members, now dubbed beauty consultants, provide hand massages and share stories about the origins and efficacy of the products, while makeup artists and skincare experts provide free makeovers. Customers are invited to take a peek at the Community & Values Wall pinned with handmade flyers, and perhaps add their signature to a petition. Sampling of products is encouraged.

Finding a way to reconnect and reposition this brand in the face of competition from the likes of Sephora and Bath & Body Works was no small task. In part, the brand is returning to its socially conscious roots: It was founded some 35 years ago by social activist Anita Roddick, a champion of Community Fair Trade partnerships around the globe. The Pulse stores honor Roddick’s mantra, “get informed, get involved, get active.” And the shift to what the company calls a “beauty revolution with heart” is happening online, too, where a complete overhaul recently debuted. The new prototype invites interaction, fosters communication and immerses shoppers in community and values; it’s refreshing and inviting.

Here at STORES we’ve featured an annual article on “20 Ideas Worth Stealing” for several years now, and our web traffic statistics show that it’s among our readers’ favorites. If you come across an idea you consider “steal” worthy, let me know. It just might make next years’ list.