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A Complete Guide to Experiential Selling: Definition & Examples

Cem Dilmegani
Updated on Feb 14
4 min read
A Complete Guide to Experiential Selling: Definition & ExamplesA Complete Guide to Experiential Selling: Definition & Examples

Shopify claims that while the cost of online advertising is rising, its net return is declining.1 Experiential selling can help with that. The main goal of experiential selling is to show potential consumers a memorable, satisfying, and/or educational exposure of a product that will increase their likelihood of doing a transaction.

Therefore, to help marketers boost their customer experience and sales, we have curated this article to explore:

  • The definition of experiential selling, how it differs from traditional selling and how businesses can benefit from its adoption.
  • The top benefits of experiential selling.
  • Its use cases for e-commerce, retail and B2B businesses.
  • Real life examples of experiential selling.

What is experiential selling?

Experiential selling is about creating an environment where potential customers can interact with products or services in a way that is enjoyable and informative.

IKEA, for instance, displays its products in its stores so that customers may get a preview of how to decorate their homes with the furniture they purchase. They might pick up tips on how interior designers combine various products. The square feet information about showrooms gives customers a notion of how furniture matches the space of their rooms etc (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Experiential selling experience example from IKEA.

Image shows an experiential selling example.
Source: Inhabitat

Similarly, technology vendors, for example, give demos to their clients so firms can prospect how technology solutions improve business processes and integrate with their current systems.

How is experiential selling different from traditional selling?

Experiential selling is different from traditional selling in that it emphasizes creating a relationship with the customer. The goal of experiential selling is not just to make a sale, but to create a lasting bond between the customer and the business.

Therefore, experiential selling does not often focus on offering the best price to its customers as traditional selling does (see Figure 3).  

Figure 3: Evolution of selling.

Image shows how selling activities have changed towards traditional selling to experiential selling.
Source: Deloitte2

Which types of businesses should utilize experiential selling?

Experiential selling can be used in any industry, but it is especially effective in retail, e-commerce and B2B sales.

For retail and e-commerce companies, creating occasions that help potential customers to expose their products is necessary because as we mentioned earlier, the positive impact of advertising on sales is shrinking due to high supply.

B2B investments on the other hand tend to be expensive, and due to the profit driven nature of businesses, they want to see the outcome of their investments before the partnership.3

Top 3 benefits of experiential selling

  1. Increase sales: Deloitte found that companies that adopt experiential selling grow 15% faster compared to their rivals.4 Customers who have a positive experience with a business are more likely to make a purchase, and they are also more likely to become repeat customers. 
  2. Create loyalty: Experiential selling fosters loyalty by creating relationships between businesses and customers. Customers who feel like they are valued by a business are more likely to continue doing business with that company. 
  3. Generate word-of-mouth marketing: Customers who have a positive experience with a business are more likely to tell their friends and family about it.

Experiential selling for retail

According to Shopify 60% customers expect to see more experiential selling efforts from retailers.5 The process of giving customers unique shopping experiences is known as experiential retail. Customers are directly engaged, and you can invite them to interact with your business physically.

It can take different forms for retail such as:

  • Exhibit your products in a way it demonstrates its use cases.
  • Providing design examples such as combining products with each other (remember IKEA example). 
  • Organizing events to engage with your customers.

Experiential selling for e-commerce

Thanks to digital transformation, nowadays, companies can simulate the physical shopping experience on digital platforms. The following three e-commerce technologies are useful in this regard:

  1. Mobile apps: Custom mobile apps let e-commerce businesses create a secure platform where they can interact with their customers, and customers can interact with others. Thus, it helps companies to create an online community. 
  2. Virtual reality/ Augmented reality: Helps companies to create a platform where users are exposed to the environment/products digitally.
  3. Sales chatbots: For physical sales, a sales representative guides customers with their information to experience an event. In e-commerce AI driven chatbots take their place that can:
    1. Understand user intent,
    2. Provide personalized recommendations in response to consumer interaction. (conversational commerce),
    3. Ensure two-way (interactive) conversations.

Experiential selling for B2B

B2B sales are different from B2C sales. Therefore, Businesses’ expectations are different from end users’ when it comes to experiential selling. As Deloitte indicates people expect to experience business outcomes of their investments. Therefore, experiential selling for B2B is associated with:

  • Demo: Especially, for technology vendors it is crucial to provide a demo to let businesses to prospect how their solution matches with your business needs and legacy systems.
  • Detailed case studies: For businesses it is inspiring and informative to expose case studies. We recommend companies to add detailed information about the business problem the company is faced with, the product solves this problem, its implementation and results. Providing statistics makes your case studies more engaging. For instance rather than claiming “Chatbot initiative increased sales be data driven and claim initiative increased sales 12%. 
  • Peer reviews: Being approved by third parties makes businesses trust your product further.

Top 3 experiential selling examples

1. Coca-Cola augmented reality experience

Coca-Cola set up an augmented reality (AR) experience in front of a railway station in Zurich during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Thanks to AR , people watched a screen in front of them and played with a well-known football player standing next to them digitally. 

2. Benefit Cosmetics e-commerce experience 

Benefit Cosmetics advertised five products in the 2021 version of AR, using facial filters to give customers prospect of the cosmetics. The application then allows users to upload filtered photographs that mimic the result of applying particular cosmetics to their faces. On social media, about 15 million people used this method to post their images and videos. Initiative cut the dwelling time  from 2 minutes to 22 seconds.6

3. M&M flavor pop up

With the M&M’S Flavor Vote Experience initiative, the brand used crowdsourcing to launch its product. Three flavors were up for online voting by the public. Additionally, M&M’s developed a live “experience” in Manhattan that has three rooms, one for each taste. Rooms were specifically created to encourage participants to post their photos to social media (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: An example for rooms that encourage people to post images on social media.

An image from M&M's experiential selling real life example.
Source: Adweek7

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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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