Retail brand experiences: The path back goes through the parking lot.

On May 13, the CDC changed their mask guidance for fully vaccinated people. Then, last week consistent with that CDC guidance several of the largest physical retailers, adjusted their guidelines to allow vaccinated guests/shoppers to visit without masks. Whether you believed these changes are overdue or premature, they are a significant step towards a return to a pre-2020 in-store experience. The traditional in-store experience will be slow to return, likely never to be exactly as they were in 2019. One of the permanent elements which will live on from our pandemic paradigm, will be the relationship between the in-store and physical area around the store or the retail campus (parking lot, adjacent spaces, grocery pick-up, sidewalk space, mobile connectivity).

Energy, excitement and interactivity are now, more than ever expected the moment you arrive on the retail campus. Conversely, physical person to person engagements in the aisle have been greatly reduced in the past 15 months and stopping to speak with a Brand Ambassador in-store will be the slowest experience element to return. This is why we say, our path back goes through the parking lot. There remain several powerful ways to create vibrant, engaging brand experiences which drive purchase consideration and provide fuel for a brand’s social content.

Here are a few ways how:

Park, Play & Shop

  • Experiences delivered via a pop-up / modular set-up which allows for minimal disruption, simplified installation, and open-air flow. Ideal for category which want a large area for activity and experience/engagement. Purchase at the experience or in-store depending on the retail partners preference. Ideal categories: DIY, Automotive, Pets.


  • Interactive Tunnel with full, sight and sound immersion. Create with the idea of creating a complementary portable digital experience. Ideal categories: Electronics, Entertainment (music/movies).


  • Experience a movie, viewing party, corporate training, or a competitive environment. Ideal categories: Esports/gaming, movie releases, confections, salty snacks

The Pick-up

  • Retailers were slow to leverage one of their greatest assets, the 5-8 minute wait at the grocery pick-up. This is an area ideal for beacon activated short AR/VR experiences which drive to great digital engagement. Ideal categories: wearable tech, fashion, toys.

Live Broadcast

  • Live broadcast from a retail location isn’t a new idea, but streaming services like Twitch have changed the game and opportunity for brands and not just for Esports brands. Having an expert stream for several consecutive hours can provide hours of live content and bring a unique voice to a brand. Ideal categories: Health & Beauty, Wellness, Toys and Beverage Alcohol (when permitted).

Also, a few conditions/factors to consider when creating the best type of retail campus experiences:

  • Seasonality: Standout during Back to School/Campus, Open Enrollment, Black Friday
  • Opportunity to reuse or repurpose physical assets for other non-retail event experiences
  • Fit within your broader marketing strategy (especially your social content strategy)
  • Retailer tolerance, regulations, and desired proximity to store entrance

These are a few examples of the opportunities and consideration available to brands, just outside the “last moment of truth”. It is fascinating in this past year we see a broader picture. That brick and mortar retail’s defining characteristic might not be the brick and mortar at all. It just might be the black top and yellow lines that frame the environment which provide the greatest value for people looking for more experiences. This also holds true for the brands that bring these experiences back to life.