By Christopher Ressa, CLS, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
We’re in a particularly exciting time when it comes to building retail customer experiences as emerging technologies and ever-changing shopping trends present limitless possibilities. That said, the stakes for providing special experiences are getting higher. Whether you’re a big player or just starting out, all retailers need to not only offer a product or service that people value but also sell the personalized, connected experiences customers expect today. Many retailers have already embraced this trend of creating customer experiences to make them come back for more. Sur La Table offers interactive cooking classes at their stores, Home Depot holds workshops on DIY projects and buying guides and many wineries host wine tasting events. So what do retailers need to create the seamless, unforgettable in-store experience?
A Differentiated Shopping Experience
One of the drivers behind the success of brick-and-mortars is the excitement of “hunt” they provide. For instance, TJX, Burlington and Ross offer unique products in a limited supply for a short period of time. This is what makes shopping at their stores a fun experience. The excitement of finding something that you didn’t know was there and will probably not be there tomorrow is what drive people to these stores.
If you are not in the off-price business, there are other ways to create a compelling experience to attract customers – this is where 80/20 rule applies. You will continue to sell 80 percent of staple products and services while experimenting the remaining 20 percent with new products and ideas. Restaurants are a great example of this rule. While they offer chef’s signature menu throughout the year, they provide an exciting addition by launching seasonal menu. It’s crucial for any business not to be stereotyped into a certain category or segment. Having a strategic mix of both staple and new products and services will result in a bigger traffic and increased consumer engagement.
Localizing a store to reflect unique and relevant culture of the community can be a powerful tool in building the bond that transcends a typical business-consumer relationship.
Extreme Customer Service
Human capital still remains the biggest factor of creating an unforgettable in-store experience yet it is often overlooked and underestimated. When people call store for information or questions, being placed on hold or directed to voice mail is the last thing they want. Is there someone easily accessible to answer questions onsite? Is there someone who can demonstrate products or services with in-depth knowledge while understanding what customers are looking for? Using the latest technologies surely increases retailers’ abilities to create a convenient shopping experience, however without customer-centric customer service, they won’t likely add values to creating a memorable experience. Making front-line employees an expert or even a friend to customers can be the most effective way to prevent ‘Let me talk to your manager’ moment. When customers go home and recommend to their friends “Go to such and such store, and ask for Joe, he can help you,” this is the moment when retailers know that they have created an irreplaceable experience.
Today’s retail world is increasingly interconnected as growing usage on social media platforms allows real time, worldwide exchange of ideas and information between retailers and consumers. In the midst of this, localizing a store to reflect unique and relevant culture of the community can be a powerful tool in building the bond that transcends a typical business-consumer relationship. Localizing isn’t exclusive to the physical look and feel of retail space. The more localized and customized lines of products are available in the store, consumers will enjoy much more personal experience. For example, if a sporting goods store in Charlotte, North Carolina sells only NY Giants goods only, it would be difficult for customers to resonate with the experience the store is trying to provide. When retailers put efforts into embracing the local community and incorporate its culture as part of their retail space, what they have created is a loyalty that is durable for years to come.