Reinventing retail therapy

The massive value of wellness experiences in physical stores



Tomaz Kljaković





As brands search for good reasons to entice buyers in-store, Tomaz Kljaković of experiential agency Pixel Artworks argues for The Drum’s retail deep dive that wellness experiences could be the ideal candidate.

Retailers have a challenge on their hands: how can they address consumer concerns while satisfying their own desire to attract more traffic to physical stores?

In an evolving retail landscape, where brick-and-mortar stores seek to redefine their place in the customer journey, many are on a quest to provide customers with experiences that can’t easily be replicated online.

Health and wellbeing, a prominent and ever-growing facet of people’s daily lives, holds the key. It’s by no means a new market, but the potential for growth is immense.

Reframing ‘retail therapy’ to create a fresh incentive to visit stores

Today’s shoppers aren’t short of choice, so retailers must find compelling ways to give people a reason to not just cross the road, but leave the house and come to the store.

The solution? Transform stores from something purely transactional into a destination of magnetic appeal. In such a fiercely competitive sector, this is the difference between winning and losing.

The answer could lie in embracing wellness as an influential growth driver in the retail space. In 2021, McKinsey estimated the global wellness market to be worth a staggering $1.5tn. That same research also indicated a 27% to 65% increase in consumers prioritizing wellness.

Brands have begun capitalizing on this shift by integrating wellness experiences into their stores, but the potential for innovation remains vast.

Advances in digital technology, for one, are enabling the creation of more impactful experiences in this space. Retailers can now tap into people’s consciousness and improve their states of well-being through scientifically validated multi-sensory inputs. In simpler terms, it’s human-focused technology that helps people live well.

Wellness in reality

More brands are beginning to recognize the need for meaningful, in-person experiences and redevelop their retail strategies accordingly.

Take Nike, which recently announced plans for Nike Well Collective, which will see the global sportswear giant push deeper into the wellness market. As part of the reorganization, Nike Live retail outlets (which run services and events tailored to local customers) have been renamed Nike Well Collective stores. Nike claims that this shift will see a new focus on holistic health, which will also be geared specifically towards women.

The impact of this type of technology is also embodied by spaces like the Outernet London District, with multisensory immersive experiences like Room to Breathe, a Pixel Artworks piece of work. Situated on one of London’s busiest streets, the experience offered Londoners the opportunity to escape the chaos, based on the science of ‘box-breathing’. The space featured a functional soundscape accompanied by relaxing visuals of rolling clouds and calm skies, mimicking the expansion and contraction of a rib cage breathing in and out. 84% of participants felt that the experience helped them unwind and destress; it was visited by over 5.3 million people and received over 1.4 million views on TikTok.

What’s in it for retailers and brands?

Wellness experiences represent a significant opportunity for retailers and brands alike. Those who embrace it can make a meaningful difference to their customers and communities, sparking uplifts in affinity, distinctiveness and preference.

According to research from Salesforce, 91% of consumers say they would be more inclined to purchase a brand or service after participating in a brand experience or activation. And research from Agency EA found that 75% of consumers have a more positive opinion about the company, product, or brand after an experience, vastly surpassing digital or TV ads as methods of recognizing and learning about a brand.

Wellness is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity in today’s landscape. Brands and marketers must recognize that the wellness revolution is here, and it could be a crucial growth driver for the retail industry. Could failure to embrace it lead to the downfall of the physical retail scene? Maybe. Or does the ever-changing consumer landscape mean that the next big trend could be just around the corner?

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