3 Steps to Inject Relevance Back into the Store Experience

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by Kristin Harripaul

Over the last few years, Amazon has continued to light up the media—with delivery drones, fulfillment warehouse robots, their IoT-powered Dash button and now one-hour delivery services in New York. Amazon’s continued push to disrupt retail in favor of the customer is a reminder of an evident struggle in the world of retailing today—how to remain relevant in a highly competitive world where no one is safe, not even famed retail giants.

So far we’ve seen the fall of big names including Radio Shack and Borders and the huge hits taken by Office Depot, Abercrombie & Fitch and Barnes and Noble—all set to close nearly 200 stores within the next year. Why? Somewhere along the way brick-and-mortar has lost its voice and purpose in the eyes of the consumer—a deadly handicap at a time when just about anything can be bought online.

The reality is that although brick-and-mortar retail was still a $4 trillion market in the United States last year, accounting for over 94% of all U.S. retail sales, that does not mean that brick-and-mortar is too big to crumble. A radical transformation is taking place and retailers and brands in brick-and-mortar need to engage in some intense soul-searching if they are to once again figure out the how and why of their physical stores. And, to do this, they should start by focusing on the 3 main areas unique to brick-and-mortar:

1) The “Wow” Experience

There’s a reason you wouldn’t attend your favorite concert, musical or play virtually, or create an online hangout for a shopping excursion with friends. It’s all about the experience. And, likewise, when a consumer enters a store they expect something outside of the product information and price they can find online—they expect an experience. In fact, if we look at the numbers a significant 86 percent of consumers say they would pay more for a great experience.

This fact highlights an opening for brick-and-mortar retailers to break away from the pack and win over the consumer with a “wow” experience. To accomplish this, retailers and brands must understand consumer shopping behavior to remove frustrating pain points and barriers that impede civilized shopping and make it a chore. They should also explore a mix of mobile and digital/technology to craft innovative and engaging experiences worthy of the trip to the store and worthy of a passionate brand ambassador. Ideally, shopping should become a fun experience for the consumer once again.

2) The Immediate Response

Today’s consumer has been groomed to expect a “fast pass” kind of world. They text, tweet, google, netflix… and are constantly conditioned with instant gratification. Very little patience is required anymore. As a result, when they choose to enter a retail store rather than shop online, consumers expect the same quick response with their favorite brands.

That feeling of instant gratification is a powerful strategy that should be implemented in your marketing efforts. In Freudian psychology, the “pleasure principle” is the instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs. It is the driving force that compels us to gratify our wants and needs. And, when we don’t get that gratification, we are filled with anxiety and tension. That said, customers will love you more for not making them wait. Try to give them something immediately. To do this, work to create an intentional path to purchase in store that meets all consumer needs. Wayfinding should also be intuitive and inventory should either be on hand or available for quick and easy ordering with the assistance of a tablet-equipped sales associate, a self-service kiosk or some kind of mobile integration. And finally, customer service post-transaction should be quick to respond to issues.

3) The Fix for Commitment Issues

Before they take the leap, today’s savvy, price-sensitive consumers need validation and assurance. They want to touch and feel a product, read all the specs, have their questions answered and see how it works before they commit to the investment. We see evidence of this behavior in the rise of reverse showrooming or webrooming trends (69 percent), where consumers go online to research products, but then head to a brick-and-mortar store to complete their purchase.

This trend highlights another prime opportunity for brands and retailers to capture the consumer at the point when they are most willing to make a purchase. Retailers and brands should work increasingly to exploit the physical store as a place to demo, test and try products and have answer all consumer questions. And, since 84 percent of shoppers use digital tools before and during their trips to a store, by carefully considering the customer’s entire journey before entering the store, you can better equip your in-store experience to win them over.

Today’s consumers have lots of options. To remain relevant in their eyes and cement a place in the brick-and-mortar world, brands and retailers must evolve. To do this, it is critical to focus on carving out a unique value proposition for the consumer shopping in the physical store. Otherwise, in a few short years, you can look forward to raising a white flag in defeat as the drones start flying in.

Image Copyright: goce / 123RF Stock Photo

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