by Dharmendra Patel
In today’s competitive market retailers face the challenge of keeping up with consumers’ shifting behaviour. Expectations continue to grow and customers are demanding a seamless and rewarding experience as they shop.
The in-store customer journey is changing and, as this transforms, retailers must find new ways to draw in consumers and stimulate loyalty.
Bricks and mortar stores are presented with more issues than digital stores – these include paying for rent and in-store staff. However, one advantage they do have is the ability to make a big impact on consumers by providing a unique in-store experience that offers something different to the online store.
Retailers need to focus on creating an experience that makes it worthwhile to shoppers visiting their stores. But how can they do this?
Know your audience
First and foremost retailers need to understand their audience – this gives them the information they need to fulfil their customers’ wishes. Once the target audience has been established, retailers should gauge what they want and expect when shopping. The store should provide the right experience, customer service, technology and product to reflect the target customer.
As customers’ needs continue to evolve retailers must keep up with their requirements. By doing so, it helps to foster long-term relationships and drive commitment.
Providing a personalised service lets customers know that the retailer cares for their needs and it enforces loyalty. Retailers should seize every opportunity to be helpful as this will drive repeat business. Customers will feel more important if they are greeted at the door by a welcoming member of staff, and staff should be on hand throughout the store to offer assistance. By personalising the right combination of service and products, each customer is made to feel significant and respected, and their expectations will be met.
Customers have more choice than ever before, so to be successful, stores needs to be distinctive and different from other stores available to them. Retailers must be innovative and unique if they are to set themselves apart from the rest. To achieve this, they need to hone in on their strong points and bring their shops to life to offer an exclusive experience.
Retailers need to make sure their stores are optimised so the design and atmosphere is exciting and creates a compelling shopping experience. This drives profitable growth, while, at the same time, enhances their brand image.
Through the use of technology, retailers can connect with consumers in a way that keeps them engaged and creates a seamless shopping experience.
Retailers should offer the right technology to suit their shoppers’ preferences. Video, for example, is a powerful channel to feature in-store – it inspires purchases by showing products at their best and offers a high level of engagement. Retailers should ensure their branding comes across strongly in the video as this enriches the brand image.
In-store wi-fi empowers consumers by giving them the knowledge to make informed purchases based on information they’ve spotted online, while, at the same time, still offering the unrivalled experience of shopping in the bricks and mortar store. Rewarding customers for their engagement via social networking sites through the use of ‘likes’ and ‘checking in’ is a great way to spread the word about a brand.
Retailers can evoke emotion in shoppers by playing the right type of background music. The music should stay in line with the audience’s taste and this will make customers feel like they’re on familiar ground. Background music should be changed throughout the day to reflect the customer’s mood. For example, in the afternoon lively music will mirror the busy and energetic time of day, where as in the evening, calmer sounds will provide the right environment as the day comes to an end.
Retailers who don’t analyse their customers’ in-store behaviour are missing a huge opportunity – scrutinising shopper behaviour gives retailers the power to react to certain trends and preferences, and as a result, increase sales. Retailers should take note of peaks in sales, and what was happening in-store at the time of the uplift. In addition, they should look at when there are dips in sales and evaluate what went wrong.
Video, wi-fi interaction and music should all be looked at when analysing customer behaviour. For example, if there’s an increase in sales when a certain video is shown, or uplift when customers are interacting socially, this should be observed and used to produce a stronger offering.
A bricks and mortar retailer’s work is never done – the shopping journey is constantly transforming and retailers need to ensure they are keeping up with their customers. Becoming complacent will result in retailers losing touch with what’s new and there’s risk of their stores becoming dated and out of touch with their audience. As technologies are developed, more possibilities will present themselves and retailers should take full advantage of these opportunities.
In summary, customer attitudes have changed towards bricks and mortar stores and retailers need to make sure that they are taking a fresh approach. If stores manage to deliver on all of the above there will be considerable benefits for both the retailer and customer. Successful retailers will be the ones that manage to create a truly unique experience that sets them apart from the rest.
If retailers get it right, we’ll see customers benefiting from the best of online and in-store shopping.
Dharmendra Patel is managing director of in-store digital technology provider PlayNetwork
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by Dharmendra Patel