This past decade, we’ve witnessed something of a power shift from retailers to customers. Once, customers were passive shoppers and recipients of in-store communications. With the ubiquity of social media and online reviews, today’s customers now seek more meaningful shopping experiences. It’s not just about acquiring the shiny object itself – it’s about becoming active co-creators of these experiences.
As this customer revolution continues to advance, retailers are racing to create seamless customer experiences that make it easy for customers to engage at every touchpoint of the “shopper journey” and beyond. Despite these best practices, though, retailers have been slow to adapt to the shopping behaviours of customers in-store – until recently.
The ones that have evolved have created truly creative in-store shopping solutions like the implementation of Beacon technology, chatbots and WiFi marketing. What’s the overarching goal? It’s threefold. First, it’s to help customers navigate that shopper journey with as little friction as possible. Second, bring them to the point of conversion, e.g. sale, opt-in, however, you define a conversion. And lastly, drive them through that journey repeatedly for equally engaging return visits.
How can you transform the in-store experience to drive customer returns?
Here is a three-step approach to transforming your in-store experience:
1. Apply a razor-sharp lens to your customers.
Transformation is brought about from a deeper understanding of your customers. Research can uncover many unknown purchase drivers, behaviours and barriers. Retail owners would be surprised to discover how the introduction of new store formats and new online, social and mobile tools are currently frustrating consumers. The main culprit is that these touchpoints do not correlate to one another as part of an integrated user experience. With this growing complexity, the journey becomes increasingly fragmented and difficult. Recognising the need for integration, retail owners must have their digital, trade, brand and product efforts integrate together. This is to create a cohesive experience pre-purchase, at purchase, post-purchase and for the life cycle of the customer.
With a hyper-focus on customers, retailers must examine the shopping experience throughout the customer journey, parse out their pain points and anticipate the needs of their customers while in-store. Identifying signature touchpoints becomes that much easier, allowing you to create a step-by-step customer experience roadmap that drives transformation and business impact.
2. Use a tool like WiFi Marketing to bridge the gap between online and in-store touchpoints.
Savvy, digitally-enabled customers expect great brand experiences online, in-store and after purchases. As we established in the previous point, lack of connection between the digital and physical touchpoints creates fiction in the shopping experience. The retailer that can seamlessly integrate these touchpoints is less likely to have customer abandonment.
Leading retailers often ensure that their physical and digital stories are aligned closely from all fronts including branding, product selection and promotions. As stated, today’s customer is actively seeking out a meaningful shopping experience, shopping across locations and devices. Remember, the shopping experience is not linear. Hence, the retailer that takes a channel-agnostic, or “omnichannel” approach, is the one who can deliver a truly seamless customer experience.
Why WiFi? One, because it can cast a wide net, detecting the most number of devices. Two, it gently opts customers into agile, ‘always-on’ engagement. With WiFi nearly everywhere and highly prized, it’s the best way to achieving economies of scale across your customer base. Third, it empowers brick and mortar venues with marketing analytics previously exclusive to eCommerce properties. Finally, it’s proven to encourage customers to spend more time and money.
3. Redefine ‘customer service’ into ‘customer hospitality’
Today’s customers aren’t necessarily responsive to the “hard sell” messages of a bygone retail era. Think back to a recent experience you encountered when walking into a store. How did the sales associate welcome you? Did their greeting engage you or repel you? These are things to consider as your in-store personnel often deliver the first impressions of your business. Hence, sales associates (and by extension, in-store personnel) need to undergo a transformation of their own – the transformation into hosts. In a retail setting, well-trained employees would behave very much like hosts would at their own dinner parties: continuously offering hospitality and ensuring their guests feel special.
The Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple was quoted saying: “The thing is, I don’t want to be sold to when I walk into a store. I want to be welcomed.” (See reference below)
Rather than talking at your customers, talk with your customers. This ongoing dialogue begins with a personable and authentic connection with your customers. This is the gateway to ascertaining their needs and helpfully guiding them to the point of purchase.
In conclusion, the rule of thumb in transforming your in-store experience is to start and end yours with your customer in mind. The goal of driving repeat customer visits is conceivable when a business is mobilized around a clear and common customer-first vision.