While there has been a lot of focus on the e-commerce market as of late, retailers can’t forget about the customers that continue to shop in-store. In fact, brick-and-mortar retail still makes up the majority of all sales in the US and physical store retail sales actually grew 3.4% in 2017, according to CBRE. But just because plenty of consumers are still shopping in store doesn’t mean retailers should take that fact for granted. With more and more online options at their fingertips, consumers’ expectations of brick-and-mortar stores has shifted—and it’s more important than ever that retailers are able to provide shoppers with a positive, memorable shopping experience.
Understand Your Customer’s Experience
Are you aware of how shoppers really feel about their experience in your store?
Salesforce recently conducted a study on the current state of the retail experience and found that 53% of shoppers simply do not have faith in most brick-and-mortar retailers to deliver great customer experiences. On top of that, the study found that more than 60% of shoppers feel that retailers just don’t understand their needs. And, according to the InMoment CX 2018 Trends Report, those concerns may be valid. The report revealed that many retailers have a skewed perception of what kind of experience they’re delivering to their customers. While 68% of consumers surveyed said they had a “positive, memorable experience with a business within the last year,” the businesses surveyed over-estimated the number of their customers who felt that way, predicting 84%.
This discrepancy is significant, because it means that many retailers are not accurately evaluating or even monitoring their customers’ experiences. Retailers need to know what kind of shopping experience their customers want and how that compares to the experience they receive.
Enhance Staff Interaction, Offer Access To Experts And Value Loyal Customers
According to the InMoment CX 2018 Trends Report, the three most important aspects that contribute to a positive, memorable shopping experience for consumers are: staff interaction, access to experts and educators, and better treatment for loyalty members. “Across age and gender, human beings leave the most significant and longest lasting impression on your customers,” the report stated. In fact, 65% of consumers said that their purchasing decisions have been highly influenced by their interactions with staff.
Some of these same ideas were also cited in another study conducted by professional real estate services firm JLL and brand experience company Big Red Rooster. The Beyond Buying report examined 100 stores and 2,000 shoppers across 10 retail sectors to offer a better idea of what keeps consumers coming back to brick-and-mortar stores. According to their findings, today’s consumers expect helpful, knowledgeable staff to be on hand to help them find what they’re looking for. At the same time, though, consumers also want an intuitive store layout. The retail space should be easy to navigate for the shopper - and offer a healthy selection of products and product options from which to choose.
Moral of the story: consumers shouldn’t have to ask for help finding the product they’re looking for - but staff should still be on hand to help walk them through the decision-making process should they need it.
Understand And Apply Valued Attributes To Your Consumer Experience
Accessible, Immersive, Meaningful & Personalized
The Beyond Buying report also cited a number of different attributes that make for a positive consumer shopping experience: accessible, immersive, meaningful, personalized. These are more than just buzzwords; they’re valuable consumer expectations.
Accessibility pertains to your technological prowess. In the age of ecommerce, consumers are increasingly expecting all the perks of online shopping to be available in-store as well. Your brick-and-mortar experience should be seamlessly integrated with your online and mobile strategy.
While the word “immersive” can feel daunting, it doesn’t have to mean transforming your store into a high-tech playground. It simply means the showroom space should be pleasant and inviting to the consumer. Evaluate your store from a variety of senses.
When it comes to searching for “meaningful” retail experiences, consumers just want to associate with brands that share their values - whether they be social, political, environmental or cultural.
Personalization is a major differentiator for retail stores. According to Salesforce, 58% of shoppers place a high value on personalized in-store experiences. While online stores can offer algorithm-based product recommendations, brick-and-mortar stores can deliver a different kind of personalization. Whether you stock customizable products or simply have a knowledgeable sales staff that can provide real-time guidance, customers should walk away from your store confident that they have found the right product for them. Robust loyalty programs can make customers feel even more special - and bring them back in the door on a more regular basis.
According to the InMoment CX 2018 Trends Report, the top three factors that consumers say contribute to a “lackluster brand experience” are: lack of understanding of their needs (46%), lack of available staff to help when needed (41%) and an impersonal and generic shopping experience (22%).
Where Do You Begin When You Want To Improve?
So how do you know if your store is meeting consumers’ expectations? First, you have to ask them. Before you can improve your customer experience, you have to have a realistic understanding of what’s working and what’s not. While revenue and customer retention stats can be helpful, they lack the nuance of information provided by direct customer feedback.
Once you’ve implemented a system for requesting and collecting feedback, make sure that information is reaching the right people. Whose job is it to collate and synthesize the information into actionable insights? Who is making sure this information is delivered to the right department and team members?
Most importantly, customers need to see that you’re actually taking their feedback into account. This means more than just replying to negative Yelp reviews. Make an effort to address the most common concerns in whatever ways you can - and make sure you’re communicating these updates and improvements to your customers.
As the research has shown, the human element of your store is of utmost importance to customers. That means staff training is crucial to your success. Today’s consumers have been conditioned by the online shopping experience, where all product and pricing details are available at the click of a button. RSAs need to be adequately equipped with the necessary resources so they can easily share key information with shoppers, including product features and benefits, pricing and promotions, customizable options, in-store availability and delivery services.
Of course, information isn’t the only thing customers are looking for from the sales staff. RSAs are also there to make the shopping experience comfortable and welcoming. This is especially important for mattress retailers, who have often been pegged as pushy salespeople (a pervasive stereotype that has no doubt helped drive consumers to online retail spaces). In addition to training, it’s important to evaluate your employee incentive and rewards strategy. Commission-based pay in common in the mattress industry - but you have to be careful about making your showroom floors too competitive. Are you unintentionally rewarding pushy behavior by focusing solely on sales quotas? Are there other ways to reward employees that help foster a positive customer experience instead?
Whether you are suffering from decreased sales or simply focused on boosting your ecommerce strategy, it can be difficult to rationalize sinking more money in your brick-and-mortar stores. But the proof is in the numbers. According to Forrester Research, retailers that invest in customer experience see a 4% year-over-year revenue bump above their competitors. By taking the time to understand consumers’ needs and expectations, retailers can curate a shopping experience that will keep their customers coming back to buy for years to come.
This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on May 24, 2018.
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