Brand Experience Centres have become a worldwide trend. Although luxury automakers like Porsche are at the forefront of these centres—offering top-notch brand experiences—Brand Experience Centres are slowly picking up steam across other verticals and geographies as well: from names like Starbucks to technology majors like Samsung—everyone is building these cool spaces for customers to immerse themselves in a brand. And Indian brands are following suit; while Amway India has launched its first digitally-enabled experience centre in Bengaluru that offers a host of options like Augmented Reality, gamification, and virtual makeovers, Fab India is planning to set up over 10 experience centres that will house cafés, interior design studios as well as organic wellness centres. Similarly, driven by advanced technology and modern-day innovations, the KiaBEAT360 is the perfect space for imagination and inspiration. Located in the heart of Gurugram, the immersive experience is only the second-of-its-kind globally, with the first one in South Korea.
What are Brand Experience Centres?
So why are Indian brands finding love for Brand Experience Centres? Since today’s customers are tired of aggressive, in-your-face marketing tactics, they are desperately seeking opportunities where they can choose to immerse themselves in the brand of their choice, at their own pace and time. Brand Experience Centres surround visitors through a hands-on, full-brand immersion experience, without the pressure of purchasing a product. These hep and modern spaces are a perfect medley of contemporary art installations, coffee bars, themed events, and innovative technology. They enable brands to interact with potential customers on their own terms, without the hard-selling tactics of the traditional retail outlet. Brand Experience Centres aim to create emotional connections with customers that build their interest and convert them into brand loyalists. They also are a great source of word-of-mouth referrals that spark widespread curiosity for others to check out the centres for themselves.
Successful Brand Experience Centres
The BMW Brand Experience Center in Tokyo is truly out of this world. It showcases the brand’s history, evolution, culture, and technology orientation. The massive centre houses dealer showrooms, custom brand experience areas, and virtual reality experience zones. People can not only see the latest range of BMW cars in a spectacular static environment but also get behind the wheel and experience their exceptional dynamic capabilities. The end result? An exciting and engaging experience for people, and a good chance for BMW to showcase its strong culture, lineage and innovative technology.
Apple’s Brand Experience Center in Brussels serves a similar purpose; a Genius Bar like no other, not just serves as a platform for showcasing the latest products but also educates, encourages, and empowers visitors with a hands-on experience of all their products. The wall with interactive displays showcases all the new products including the latest apps, features, music, and in-store events. The indoor trees and touch-sensitive tables provide a relaxed, laid-back vibe to the store. Such an experience enables visitors to understand the nuances of the various products in a stress-free environment that help them in making the right purchasing decision. Even if they don’t make a purchase they get a chance to immerse themselves in everything the brand represents and promises about itself.
Nestle’s Brand Experience Centre in Vevey, Switzerland – called the ‘nest’ – gives visitors a chance to get acquainted with the Nestlé brand, its history, and culture as well as the brand’s efforts in exploring current food challenges. They leverage interactive exhibits and digital technologies but the theme is very real and living. From giving a peek into the latest products to showcasing the history of the brand through cinema, the two-storied Brand Experience Centre also symbolises the future and displays creative innovations through a range of games and a VR experience.
Building a Sensational Brand Experience Centre
The era of Brand Experience Centres is here to stay. These upscale, public engagement spaces are becoming the newest way to attract customers in a pressure-free environment. So, what makes a successful Brand Experience Centre?
- Values: In a hyper-competitive world, it is what the brand inherently “is” that will resonate with the right target customers. Everything in the experience centres should be based on a strong foundation of what is at the heart of the brand and the company. Why is the company here? What does the brand represent? This is the experience the consumers want to immerse themselves in.
- Aesthetics: Showcasing your brand in a cool and unique fashion will go a long way in driving a sense of exactly who your brand is. In a world where social sharing has become commonplace, and aesthetically designed Brand Experience Centre can drive significant word-of-mouth (and Instagram) referrals.
- Events: If you want visitors to come back to your store, you need to make events a regular affair. Just like you would seasonally update offerings at your retail stores to ensure repeat visitors, you will have to build a diverse event calendar at your Brand Experience Centre. Conducting events in the form of workshops that are curated with different themes is a smart way to engage your target market.
- Technology: One of the best ways to immerse your visitors at your Brand Experience Centre is through the use of modern technology. In today’s digital world, offering a stunning digital experience is what will stay with the visitors for a long, long time. Incorporate AI-driven robots or offer a state-of-the-art VR experience to make the visit truly immersive (and impressive).
Showcasing brands and their rich culture through a Brand Experience Center is a strategy gaining ground among companies across the world and it’s time for India to follow suit. As aggressive, hard-sell marketing tactics turn off customers, and as businesses start to become consumer-centric, these customer-driven immersive destinations are the way forward for brands. If you’re looking to engage customers in new and innovative ways, it’s time to represent yourself. With a Brand Experience Centre! You will be able to forge deeper relationships with your customers by leveraging creativity, technology, and innovation.
Shekhar Badve is one of the founding Directors of Lokusdesign, a leading Strategy & Design company. His expertise lies in Reducing Complexity, Creating Innovation Possibilities, Humanising Technology, and Developing Unique Customer Experiences using Service Design. He is also a jury at the prestigious India Design Mark, Government of India; a member of CII’s National Committee on Design and CII’s Committee on Design Interventions in Smart City; and member of Board of Studies for WeSchool, World University of Design and MIT Institute of Design.