woman on laptop with headphones
Looking for ways to emotionally connect with customers as well as bring in revenue are two key aspects of creating virtual micro-experiences that businesses need to keep in mind. — Getty Images/fizkes

Customers have come to expect unique, thoughtful service from their brands. In fact, 86% of shoppers are willing to pay more for a great experience. But brands of all sizes are now facing a new challenge: How can you offer a great customer experience digitally?

Social distancing is likely to be the norm for a very long time, leading many business owners to look for ways to provide thoughtful service with minimal human contact. Enter: virtual micro-experiences. Here are five ways you can provide a digital micro-experience that surprises and delights every customer safely.

[Read more: Micro-Experiences Are the Next Big Thing in Customer Engagement]

What is a virtual micro-experience?

Traditionally, micro-experiences are small-scale, in-store, physical activations. They are scalable to multiple locations and generate revenue for your company by providing a delightful branded experience.

Retail micro-experiences tend to be sensory and immersive. For instance, L’Occitane created a micro-experience in their New York City flagship that transported customers on a virtual hot air balloon journey over Provence. The brand used virtual reality, olive-tree scent and a “rain shower” sink to provide a unique way to try and learn about its products.

[Read more: Foot Locker and Nike Are Collaborating for Customer Convenience]

The pandemic has prompted marketers to shift micro-experiences from in-store to digital. McKinsey reports, “E-commerce sales in apparel, department stores, and beauty products have increased by nearly ten percentage points, on average, since the onset of the pandemic.” Shoppers are shifting to buying online, and a brand’s mission to surprise and delight must evolve accordingly.

5 ingredients for creating a virtual micro-experience

Robyn Novak, vice president and managing creative director of brand consulting firm FRCH Nelson, says there are seven key features needed to bring a micro-experience to life in person. These five features can be adapted to a digital environment to create that same connection with an online shopper.

Emotional connection

Your digital micro-experience must go beyond a nice-looking website. It should connect with your customers on an emotional level. Identify a passion or a pain point to give your digital micro-experience a purpose. Glossier, for instance, offers an online Skincare Quiz to help shoppers learn which Glossier products are right for their unique skin. Through a few simple questions, the brand creates a complete routine from which shoppers can explore products and learn how to use them. How can you better support your customer’s needs?

Look for ways to bring in additional sales, whether that’s through strategic partnerships with other small businesses in your community or through upselling.

Sensory delight

In-person experiences, like L’Occitane’s rain shower, are immersive, sensory and playful. In a pandemic, that type of sensory activation is more likely to turn customers away for fear of transmission.

Micro-experiences translate nicely to your brand’s digital presence, however. The functionality of your page, or a sound that plays when you take an action, can make a strong impression on a customer, writes The Next Web: “Remember the unmistakable chime when you started up your MacBook? Or when you clicked on the unmistakable Floating Action Button on Your Google Docs app to create a new document?”

Think about ways you can add sounds and visual elements to your online store. Scrolling text, animations, custom-designed cursors and feedback sounds (sounds that confirm that an action has been taken successfully, like when a customer adds something to their cart) are all elements that can create sensory delight.

Revenue generation

Your digital micro-experience must be revenue-generating. Look for ways to bring in additional sales, whether that’s through strategic partnerships with other small businesses in your community or through upselling. For instance, Rent the Runway partnered with W Hotels to open an entirely new revenue stream while still delighting guests. “Upon booking their room, W Hotel guests are able to choose four styles to rent for their stay from Rent the Runway’s Unlimited Closet for only $69 USD,” described the press release. Guests simply dropped off their items at the front desk at the end of their stay.


Your micro-experience will be successful if you can customize your offering for each individual. Take inspiration from eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker. The brand’s app uses augmented reality to let customers virtually try on frames, rendering the glasses in a live, 3D preview that goes beyond a weird, two-dimensional photoshop most eyecare brands use. This feature, combined with Warby Parker’s signature Home Try-On service, allows customers to find the right frames and get suggestions without having to visit the store in person.

Blend digital and in-person

Many retailers use digital technology to make their in-store activations that much more powerful. Wedding registry company Zola, for instance, opened a pop-up retail location where shoppers could add items to their online registry and order invitations, but also print out a personalized 3D wedding topper or chill out in the CBD lounge. The experience combined the brand’s online offerings with something special for stressed-out couples during the busiest season for engagements.

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