Curt Doty is CMO of Now Now Events and a creative entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in branding and marketing in entertainment. Here he takes a look at the future of retail and how technology is changing the landscape for customers and landlords alike.

Remember the headlines from not so long ago? VRcades: The Future of LBE or This is the year of VR. Well, the jury is still out but after two years of a strategy that was thought of to save malls, it may not. The strategy was to save sagging sales and adoption of VR by bringing the experience, at a much lower cost, to the people, where they gather anyway, at the mall. The problem is that the notion of EXPERIENCE is NOT enough. Will it keep people coming back or actually provide enough through-put to make it profitable?

For any technology to cross the tipping point there needs to be a cultural zeitgeist that creates a MUST GO fervor. Though VR has become part of a much wider multi-media entertainment landscape, the more recent rise of AR and advertisers love of it, has created a much more accessible way to connect to users with only a smartphone. Lessons can also be learned from the shopping phenomenon of DROP-INS, where draw an amazing crowd and sell out the latest luxury street gear. All created and amplified through social media.

So, what truly is the next generation idea that will succeed? I believe it is Immersive Retail (IR). Though I wish the best of luck to all of these VRcades and their backers, to stop at EXPERIENCE is short sighted. People want to buy stuff. Brands want to sell stuff. Retailers want acquisition. The formula for success should be CURATION > EXPERIENCE > CONVERSION > TRANSACTION.

Selling a ticket is not enough to qualify as a transaction. Closing the CRM Loop and allowing the consumer, mall-goer, etc. to experience a variety of interactive shopping experiences is THE FUTURE OF RETAIL. These hungry landlords looking to move beyond traditional models of renting space are finally warming to the idea that their future is intertwined with technology, consumer behavior and immersive experiences. Enter the Age of IR.

It isn’t just about the guys! Women remain the primary shoppers and the beauty category is booming. Interactive shopping experiences abound and are data driven. Holographic product selectors, interactive kiosks, and AR shopping gives the girls a new playground and fun experience to try a new lipstick or hair color. Instead of free roaming a Star Wars landscape, free roam an experiential retail landscape that allows you and your friends to explore, purchase and have that Instagrammable moment.

Instead of a carny atmosphere, there is a bright, fun-filled shopping experience that dramatically increases footfall and social engagement. Instead of finding the sweet spot of cinema, game mechanics, and theme park attractions, secure the new hybrid of fandom, beauty, fashion and brands wrapped in an immersive and entertaining experience. Mall operators need to move from multi-player experiences to multi-shopper experiences. This gets back to their core demographic and aligns with existing marketing strategies for long term growth. Instead of free roam VR, everyone can free roam SHOP!