5 Roadblocks to In-Store Sales Growth

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by Kristin Harripaul

Turn around. Stop! Go back. Wait… All part of the customer’s in-store journey as they encounter the puzzling roadblocks that hinder civilized brick-and-mortar shopping, and ultimately your sales growth. The customer’s next step? According to Oracle, 89 percent of customers simply take their business elsewhere.

The reality is that the benefit of the doubt is not a luxury kindly offered to retail stores and brands selling within them by today’s savvy customer. Just ask recently buried giants Borders, Blockbuster and KB Toys, or some of today’s big names now in critical condition like Sears, Barnes and Noble, Staples and Radio Shack, who are all set to close 200 or more stores within the next few years.

With the growth of Internet and mobile shopping and the oversaturation of retail stores, it has never been more critical for retailers and the brands selling within them to not only understand their customers, but to help them buy.

Check out the 5 big roadblocks to the customer’s path to purchase and to your sales and retention growth:

#1: Gaps Between Advertising Promises & Actual Customer Experiences

Through advertising, retailers and brands set the stage for customers—here’s what you can expect to find when you come in-store. The problem? Advertising spend does not extend in-store to meet the standards and expectations they’ve set for customers. The pristine, neatly laid out store turns out to be a swirling mass of chaos, clutter and disorder. Navigational/wayfinding cues are either hidden, missing or inaccurate and then when customers finally pinpoint the top secret location of their prize, they’re met with everyone’s favorites—lack of selection, out-of-stock or the fine print (that amazing, no-strings attached deal that you rushed in-store for… well it comes with a catch).

After spending all this effort, time and money to bring customers in-store, retailers and brands fail to connect the final dots for customers. And what does this failure cost? Sales, customers and positive brand perception and reviews in the one place responsible for over 90 percent of retail sales.

#2: Indigestible / Missing Product Information

Another roadblock separating retailers and brands from buying customers appears in product information. Customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions. Give customers a reason to buy your products and help them establish confidence in their decision. Use clear intuitive communications to help customers understand how they can use the product in the context of their lives.

Place-based digital displays are one of the best ways to communicate product information, or even product demos. Customers are naturally cautious/suspicious and they don’t like to be “sold to” by pushy sales people. In fact, if we look at the numbers, today’s customers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90 percent of the way through their journey before reaching out to a sales person. With digital displays, you can empower these customers and lower their defenses through simplicity and sensory engagement, while still maintaining control of how customers perceive your brand.

#3: Missed Targeting Opportunities

Not paying attention to various customer shopping styles and buying process stages is another major barrier to the buying process. A customer shopping for fun is totally different than a customer who treats shopping as a chore or who has a very limited amount of time. Also, moms with kids will have a completely different set of needs than the aforementioned shopping types—don’t tempt the kids, keep valuables out of reach, ensure security, etc. And, let’s not forget the sales seekers or couponers who have likely prepared way in advance and come looking for that deal that appeared in the paper this morning.

It is not an easy task, but you should consider all these different customer types and try to cater to their different shopping preferences. It is also important to remember that when these customers enter the store, they may all be at different stages along their path-to-purchase. You must address all these different stages. For example, consider things like: Does the customer know the brand/product? Have they read all the reviews and available product information? Is there specific information they are looking to have answered in-store?

#4: The Not-So-Fast Checkout Process

A long/slow checkout line is NEVER a good thing. Today there are several self- and mobile-based checkout options as well as mobile wallet possibilities to speed things along—don’t make a customer who is ready to buy your product wait. Chances are they may change their mind, and decide that it’s just not worth it. I know I did just this past weekend.

#5: Channel Integration that Hurts

Customers expect you to be everywhere they are at any point in time online, on-mobile or in-person, always working to simplify the buying process. That said, marketing gimmicks such as online only and in-store only deals or difficult online returns only serve to frustrate and impede customers on their path to purchase and take the joy out of their experience. These kinds of channel-specific tactics pit the channels against each other and assign illogical costs and benefits to each. Instead you should be focused on painless, worry-free buying everywhere rather than through just one channel. You must be willing and able to adopt the technologies, pricing and merchandising that match consumer desires to research and buy as they please, where they please and when they please.

You should never have customers jumping through hoops just to buy your products. They’ll just buy it anyway, but from someone else. It is therefore critical to not only understand your customers, but to remove the barriers along their path to purchase and help them buy, or else fall prey to your eager but patient competition.

Image Credit: ©iStock.com/tzido

You May Also Be Interested In…

Part 1: Really Understand Customer Shopping Behavior—THE Top 3 Questions to Ask >>
Part 3: How to Cement Your Brick-and-Mortar Presence… Even As The Drones Fly In >>
Part 4: Digital in Retail—4 Keys that Drive In-Store Conversion >>
Part 5: Are You Losing Customers at the Finish Line? >>

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