The shopping experience is what is keeping the brick-and-mortar retail sector alive. Without a more-than-satisfactory experience, shoppers will surely turn to showrooming and online shopping.
Here’s how to shape your shoppers’ experience:
1. Make a good first impression
The shopping experience begins before shoppers have even entered the store – with advertising, branding, competitor research and social media campaigns. These are all important assets in shaping a positive shopping experience, as they make up future customers’ first impression of your store. According to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form their first impression of your brand.
So make sure your website, web store, mobile apps and social media profiles promote your mission and message as clearly as possible, because these assets are meant to give consumers an idea of what to expect upon entering the store. To make sure that you meet these expectations, you must engage with consumers via social media and other channels will give you an idea of how to design the experience according to their needs and wants.
Here’s a hint: In this digital day and age, shoppers not only expect to be able to find information about a store online before or after their physical visit, they also expect access to coupons, deals and promotions in exchange for interacting with your brand. According to HubSpot, research shows that 58 percent of Facebook users expect exclusive offers from business pages. They often expect a first-time customer discount by checking in on location-based applications, a text or email service that notifies them of upcoming sales and a customer loyalty point system.
2. Understand expectations, define the experience
After you have gotten an understanding of their expectations upon entering the store, the most important part of designing the shopping experience is not only meeting but exceeding their expectations. Doing so will either maintain, reinforce or improve the impression they formed initially.
Do they expect a sale rack? Do they expect additional sizing options? Do they expect the latest styles or latest technology? Consider these kinds of questions. A shopper isn’t going to recommend your store to their friends for simply meeting their expectations. In the shopping experience, the retailer must not only meet, but exceed customer needs enough to inspire him or her to take further action – recommend your store to a friend, like the store page on Facebook, make more purchases, etc.
Also, what are their personas? Who is your target audience? Even if you sell to an especially narrow market, it is useful to consider the other kinds of shoppers you see in your store. Think about what they want to accomplish, as well as what their problems, needs and desires are.
3. Leverage assets accordingly
After you have identified and evaluated your customers’ expectations of a successful shopping experience, you need to ensure that each aspect of your store is in alignment. Think about your employee performance, labor allocation, inventory, store layout, marketing efforts and social media presence. Think about how each asset and aspect contribute to the overall experience. This will enable you to smooth out any inconsistencies.
Business analytics are another crucial step in designing the shopping experience as they provide you with the knowledge to apply the process in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. A people counting system will allow you to optimize these aspects in accordance to the amount of shoppers who enter your store on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis. With access to detailed traffic reports and conversion rates, you can identify your peak shopping hours and make sure you exhibit an optimal shopping experience during those hours. You can also gain insight into how many employees are needed to adequately serve the amount of shoppers in the store in a given time frame, for example.
Carefully designing the shopping experience ensures that you can meet their needs by having the assistance and options to accommodate to what they expect. It also allows you to exceed their expectations by offering additional service or opportunities.