Retailers face constant threats to survival and advancement, both from online alternatives and brick-and-mortar competitors. As consumers increasingly value convenience, in-store retailers must leverage every possible advantage to win customers’ loyalties. In short, brick-and-mortar retailers must deliver a one-of-a-kind customer experience.
We know that retailers that master customer experience fare better in times of social and economic uncertainty. They are far less susceptible to revenue loss during tough times, and they experience three times the returns of their competitors when the economy rebounds, per McKinsey.
With rising prices and ongoing turmoil in many facets of American life, retailers must focus on what matters most: the in-store customer experience. As you evaluate the way your stores present to customers, consider whether you are deploying the specific types of experiences that consumers today demand.
IN-STORE EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT: AN INFRASTRUCTURE FOR RETAIL SUCCESS
In-store experience management is the discipline of creating, managing, and scaling the experiences that your customers have in your stores. Such experiences may include:
• Immersive environments.
• Live events.
• Customer service experiences.
• Modes of checkout.
• Interactive displays, tablets, televisions, and kiosks.
Effective in-store experience management requires keenly examining each stop along the customer journey. From the way employees greet incoming shoppers to the content and physical positioning of display screens, every micro-experience must be logical and fiscally justifiable. Therefore, those who oversee in-store strategy must have a specific rationale for each experience and metrics to measure the effectiveness of those experiences.
NOTABLE TYPES OF IN-STORE EXPERIENCES
As a general rule, the more unique the in-store experience is to your brand, the greater its potential to “wow” your customers. Nike’s House of Innovation and Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery exemplify the mark that retailers can leave on customers when they think outside the box, yet within their brand’s identity.
Not every in-store experience has to be completely unique, though. Certain experiences are more practically minded, common among retailers of all stripes, and yet highly effective for customer retention. Interactive display screens and in-store pickup are two examples of broadly adopted and immensely popular experiential features.
Those seeking to elevate their in-store experiences should consider these five specific types of customer experience.
Habitual Amazon Primers and other online shoppers aren’t imagining it: shipping costs are getting higher, and delivery times are getting longer. According to Bloomberg, these expenses and inconveniences are here to stay, with shipping expenses literally written into contracts between supply chain participants.
This presents a Prime opportunity (pun intended) for in-store retailers to gain an edge on their online competition. Our research shows that 48% of surveyed shoppers used BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) to counter shipping fees in the past year, and ever-rising shipping costs could increase the share of BOPIS-friendly shoppers.
By offering efficient paths for shoppers to purchase items online and pick them up in your stores or curbside, you are doing your brand and customers a major service.
Each customer who walks into your store wants to be blown away. Too many retailers fail to capture the attention and imagination of their audience, delivering a ho-hum, take-it-or-leave-it experience.
Immersion is all-encompassing yet comprised of specific components. Every part of your store plays into or detracts from a sense of immersion. This is true of targeted, purely immersive experiences (see: Beautycounter’s in-store recording studio). It is also true of your design scheme, store layout, and interactive offerings.
One question you can ask to gauge immersion is this: Are we positively capturing the customer’s attention at every turn of their trip through our stores?
Interactive digital screens are a way to encourage social sharing, additional time spent in-store, and general immersion within your brand experience.
Though perhaps not the most exciting type of experience, revenue-focused experiences are arguably the most important type of experience. Any experience that encourages customers to buy, buy more, and buy more often constitutes a revenue-focused experience.
Revenue-driven experiences include:
• A store layout that funnels customers to your high-margin products.
• Interactive kiosks advertising deals, loyalty programs, and other offers that encourage the customer to purchase.
• Self-checkout, which ensures that every customer can buy their items in the manner they prefer.
• Product displays that allow customers to find products with ease.
Though many different customer experiences can affect long-term revenue, revenue-focused experiences are hyper-focused on converting and retaining customers.
Lack of information means wasting customers’ time. Your shoppers want to know that you have the products they need at prices they find palatable. They want to be able to find those products in your store. They want as much informative intel as possible, provided in an accessible way.
Digital displays can tell the story of a specific product or series of products, delivering details that help the customer make an informed decision. The more ways you can deliver the customer truly useful information in a digestible manner, the more seamless the customer experience will be.
Retailers face the tall task of providing everything to everyone who enters their store. While some customers still prefer the cashier-assisted checkout experience, others like to cut the line and scan themselves.
Our State of Self-Checkout Experiences 2021 survey found that 60% of consumers prefer self-checkout over cashier-led alternatives. The caveat, though, is that those self-checkout experiences have to be glitch-free.
Providing the latest, most reliable tech to serve each customer’s checkout preference will ingratiate your brand with a broader segment of the shopping public.
The retail customer experience is a finely-tuned machine, with each type of micro-experience an essential component. If your organization neglects any single component—checkout, immersion, revenue, or otherwise—the entire experience suffers.
From the practical to the experiential, technology is making it easier and more cost-effective to please retail customers. Embrace the solutions that have transformed retail experiences in the age of COVID. In-store virtual assistants, app-to-store interconnectivity, self-checkout kiosks, and digital product displays are readily available resources. Listen to your customers—and use them.