Retailtainment: How Online Shopping Became an Extension of Customers’ Lifestyle and Entertainment

The expectations of consumers for experience-driven shopping journeys are driving the growth of retailtainment. From live streams to personalized recommendations, the stimulating possibilities it affords are endless.


Shopping used to be all about function. In a brick-and-mortar store, you would choose an item, take it to the cashier, pay, and go. Online, you would add to cart, review your purchase and shipping terms, check out, and wait. It worked well enough, and yet, it left modern consumers wanting.

Ease and convenience no longer cut it. Today’s shoppers expect brands to deliver shopping experiences that are worth remembering. Enter “retailtainment,” where retail and entertainment come together.

Retailtainment is the natural evolution of an industry that is everchanging and is now driven more by experiences than products, both on and offline. It’s fed by trends that have emerged across our digital experiences, from social media to our go-to apps.

a shopper enjoys retailtainment experiences on her phone

The Lure of Retailtainment

Online shopping is becoming a regular part of shoppers’ lifestyles. Scrolling through brands’ feeds on social media or on their websites has become a form of entertainment.

These new behaviors are leading to tangible results, especially as the experience on eCommerce websites more and more mirrors the one on social: In fact, an endless scroll product feed — a very Instagram-like experience — can result in shoppers spending 73% more as compared to browsing through products on different pages.

But retailtainment is more than just products on infinite scroll. It can take the form of creative videos—vlogs, tutorials, and even advertising clips—that grab attention because they’re creative and relatable. There’s also gamification, personalized experiences and recommendations, virtual and augmented reality, themed pop-up shops, and more. Simply put, any format for creating entertaining experiences that focuses on delighting customers while driving purchases can be considered retailtainment, whether in-store or online.

How Retailtainment Works

Think about the feelings we have when receiving a personalized recommendation on Spotify, discovering new content on Instagram, or settling in for the latest Netflix marathon. These platforms make us feel seen and provide a constant stream of highly relevant, engaging content. Retailtainment combines these elements — the personalization, the content-based experiences, the engaging format — and the joy of shopping.

The end result is much more substantial than a material purchase, and the memory of the experience leaves behind a more meaningful imprint than a traditional buying process. These experiences are often shared and recommended to friends, driving customer acquisition as well as loyalty.

Examples of In-Store Retailtainment

In-person retailtainment takes experiential retail to the extreme:

  • For example, the House of Vans in London is about way more than buying shoes. It’s also a cafe, cinema, skate ramp, and live venue, all in one. It’s truly an entertainment venue dedicated to the interests and aesthetic preferences of Vans customers.
  • Also in London is Farfetch’s recently opened Store of the Future, where seamless shopping is the goal. The luxury retailer uses augmented reality, emotion-scanning software, and smart mirrors that let customers check their browsing history and wishlists in a snap, bringing the digital experience into the physical.
  • Nike is another pioneer of in-store retailtainment, with a brick-and-mortar store spanning six floors. Inside, there are inviting experiences, such as a mini basketball court and exercise machines that highlight the sneakers for sale and their performance amid varying conditions.
in-store retailtainment

Examples of eCommerce Retailtainment

As we touched on earlier, the digital realm is the most natural and powerful outlet for retailtainment:

  • A great early example of this is TOMS‘ VR technology, which “sends” shoppers to Peru, introducing them to children who received their first pair of buy-a-pair give-a-pair TOMS shoes. This example blends the brand’s fundamental values with an emotional and immersive experience that makes shoppers feel even better about purchasing a pair of TOMS.
  • Cookware brand Great Jones has a direct SMS line to serve as a trusted source for pots and pans, recipes, and cooking tips, offering up valuable content on demand, and proving that shoppers are open to being entertained in a variety of formats.
  • Some brands are also meeting customers at one more popular online destination: gaming platforms. Drest lets players become virtual stylists and judge different outfits put together in the game. Players’ scores correspond to real-life rewards that can be used to purchase pieces from 160 brands, including designer clothes. Skincare brand SK-II boasts a realistic world a la-SimCity, featuring popular tourist spots in Japan.
retailtainment feed

The list of ways to make online shopping even more entertaining is limitless, with new, innovative tools constantly being developed, including personal shopper apps, personalized content and recommendations, livestream shopping, and video co-browsing.

What Makes Retailtainment Successful

Not every retailtainment effort will be a hit with shoppers. You need to start by understanding how your target shoppers spend their leisure time — the apps they use, the social platforms they love, and the experiences they go out of their way to see in person. Then you’ll be equipped to create customer journeys they actively anticipate.

Shopping experiences should be inspiration-led

When shoppers go to your website, you can help them focus their attention on inspiration galleries containing image and video content that features your products. Do make sure that the content is highly visual, relatable, and exciting. Then, make sure the images and videos you’re collecting, creating, and displaying are shoppable, so you can capture customer intent in the very moment that inspiration strikes.

Brand relationships have to stay authentic

Create intimate experiences by authentically inviting shoppers to become a part of your brand. For example, you can take your shoppers on a behind-the-scenes tour of your store. Or, you can feature real customers on your site to not only inspires familiarity, but also engagement and connection. When potential shoppers see themselves in user-generated content that you share, it not only entertains them, but also builds trust in your products.

Don’t forget the ‘retail’ in retailtainment

At the end of your day, the reason your customers are on your website rather than your social media pages is that they’re more serious about purchasing. So, make the shopping a seamless part of the entertainment — don’t force them to stop videos, backtrack through inspiration galleries, or beat the game before they buy. Make product discovery and checkout an integral part of the content you build for your retailtainment strategy.

The bottom line is that retail is evolving fast, and online shopping experiences will have to keep up. Retailtainment is a proven way to stand out in such a cutthroat environment, by focusing closely on the customer experience.