Immersed in Commerce: The Evolution of Onboard Retail

There’s no lack of at-sea thrills these days — from racetracks and roller coasters to water slides — that elicit screeches and screams of joy. But when those heightened sounds emanate from the onboard watch shop … well, something unexpectedly special must be happening.

Virtual Reality at Sea

A female passenger on Norwegian Encore wears a Panerai diving watch and a virtual reality device while seated in the watch shop. With a click of a remote, she transforms herself into a diver — gasping, commenting, and writhing as she simultaneously twists and turns in her chair, moving her head in all directions to scan the surrounding area. In fact, she just experienced a virtual reality of a diver deep in the sea coming face to face with the likes of sharks, octopi, and other sea creatures large and small.

All of this to introduce the Italian luxury watch Panerai and make a timely connection. Shoppers cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line have several opportunities to become experts on watches and watchmaking, with events such as a Scotch and Watch session and a history of watches seminar. Other passenger-inclusive opportunities include jewelry making by John Hardy and even the opportunity to “borrow” jewelry.

Welcome to a new retail experience.

Shows, trivia, and games still fill the schedule on ship newsletters, but now shopping is considered a worthy activity. With the focus on experiential travel, it comes as no surprise that cruisers expect those same immersive experiences while shopping. Whether its called retail-tainment, immersive shopping, or experiential shopping, the goal is the same: to get shoppers involved in a deeply personal shopping experience. Unlike passive shopping, as found with online retailers, experiential shopping attempts to give a shopper an experience that involves all of the senses. Cruise lines have jumped on board with this type of marketing in order to entice shoppers.

RELATED: A Cruiser’s Guide to Fort Lauderdale’s Best Shopping 

One of the marketing components is the appeal to the senses. What could be more engaging than feeling, touching, or even tasting a product? Teaching shoppers about a product encourages them to share their newfound knowledge with friends and creates a sense of loyalty to a product. Authenticity and exclusivity also play a role in experiential shopping.

Cruise Retail: Changing Expectations 

Unlike most cruise lines, MSC Cruises does its own retailing, which results in innovations and ideas generated from the cruise line; no two ships, even within the same class, offer the same shopping experience. So everyday, something different is presented to guests, whether it is the captain signing ship models or…

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By Theresa Russell

Photo: Ingram Image

Now in its 25th year, Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine is published bi-monthly and available worldwide through digital subscription. It offers the latest news in cruise and travel, with in-depth features on voyages, new ships, the best destinations, readers' picks, onboard cuisine, entertainment, and more!