According to Psychology Today, retail therapy involves shopping with the aim of improving the mood of the buyer. The main benefits of retail therapy include escape, relaxation and rejuvenation.
In my most recent consumer interviews, online shopping is increasingly mentioned as type of mini mental vacation.”—Kit Yarrow Ph.D.
In fact, in a survey that Psychology Today shared, 62 percent of respondents reported going shopping to improve their mood.
If you’ve been an event or meeting planner for a while, sooner or later, you will come across a corporate client that asks you to cut down on content so that participants will have more time “for shopping.” When faced with these requests, it’s important to remember that shopping and learning don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It is possible to deliver content through a well-designed shopping experience.
I was reminded of this during IBTM Latin America when organizers included a tour of luxury retail center El Palacio de Los Palacios in the pre-show tour of Mexico City for hosted buyers. In small groups, the concierge team provided a tour that focused on how the architecture, sculpture and art work that the group had viewed on the city tour was incorporated into the design, décor and displays of the shopping center. For event professionals, it was an opportunity to pick up ideas for décor, tablescapes, color schemes, floral arrangements, lighting, catering and furnishing.
Designing the experience
Shopping experiences can be designed to appeal to all audiences, ages, professions and industries. It’s a matter of changing the focus. Clarify your objectives and the demographics of your group. This will determine the departments for participants to visit. Behind-the-scenes tours can be an opportunity for architects, restaurateurs and professionals specializing in IT, customer services, marketing, logistics and even engineering to uncover best practices.
Shopping experiences during foreign retreats and incentive trips can provide an opportunity to discover emerging technological trends to stay ahead of the curve. If there is a spousal program or if families are invited to join employees on the trip, some groups can visit fashion, tech gadgets, toy and children’s clothing departments. Avoid a cookie-cutter approach and customize the experience.
Here are some ideas for incorporating retail therapy into meetings, conferences and events.
For team building, I have arranged for teams to interview executives from luxury brands to identify best practices and how they could be applied to their own businesses. There was also a mystery shopping challenge for each team. To add the fun factor, photo challenges, trivia and shopping challenges were incorporated into the experience.
Debriefing retail therapy experiences
After the tour in Mexico City, participants were given 90 minutes to relax, shop and spend more time in areas of interest. Some participants walked around in groups. Others grabbed snacks in the café. I took advantage of the opportunity to sit quietly and reflect on the experience. I felt inspired to write this blog post so I spent part of my time blogging. Other approaches to debriefing the experience include the following.
- Re-configure the teams and give team members a chance to compare their experiences. If you use this approach, don’t make it too formal. Give the teams the option of sitting and chatting or walking around and sharing what they’ve learned.
- Some participants may welcome the opportunity for quiet reflection and recording their experience through journaling or blogging.
- Participants can share their experiences informally if you serve afternoon tea or coffee and refreshments at the end of the tour.
- Asking participants to document their experience by taking photos and sharing them on Instagram or through a Pinterest Board.
- Upon returning to the meeting room, the re-configured or original teams can be given time to develop short presentations or reports to share with the entire group.
- A panel interview with a representative from each team can also be used to share highlights from the experience.
Places to go for retail therapy
Any luxury retail center or discount shopping mall can provide an opportunity for groups to learn through retail therapy.
- Mexico City: El Placio del Palacios
- Paris: Galeries Lafayette
- Dubai: Ibn Battuta Mall, Mall of Emirates
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Starhill Gallery
- Singapore: Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands
- New York: Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany’s, Union Square
- Toronto: Yorkville Village, Eaton Centre, Holt Renfrew, Yorkdale Mall
Some establishments even offer structured tours or shopping experiences.
If your meeting or conference is falling into a rut, consider spicing them up with a retail therapy experience.