Evolving the In-Store Experience Requires Planning, Not Guessing.

We’ve all heard it—shoppers are not happy with the in-store experience. At the same time, brands and retailers recognize the current shopper experience doesn’t match expectations, and they are racing to make a change in this competitive landscape. The first reaction for many retailers is to run to digital screens, something we saw years back, plastering walls with bright images and generic content. Others quickly develop mobile apps, which they believe are sure to capture the Millennial and Gen Zer who heavily use their mobile devices, even while in physical stores. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The first step should be laying out a plan that includes short term implementations of technology for what works now for today’s shoppers while evolving into the future.

Beyond the fact that in-store technology has become more cost effective, operational, and scalable, there are shopper privacy considerations as well as shopper “acceptance” considerations. What’s considered helpful and maybe cool versus what’s considered annoying and creepy.

So, if you’re building a plan, below are 3 steps in the process to assist in evolving the in-store experience:

Integrated Analytics

Identify and integrate the analytics platform of choice to understand what experiences, messages, products, displays, etc. are appropriate throughout the store and when.

Static research and focus groups provide a partial answer and should be replaced with real-time continuous in-store analytics.  By having actual stores, not just labs, you can roll out new signage, move merchandise, etc. and try a test-and-learn process “in the wild” with real shoppers.

Go Digital

Take existing digital screens or introduce selective locations to start integrating responsive or tailored digital where it makes sense strategically and where it enhances the shopper experience.  The analytics gathered in step 1 should provide guidance for the high-impact areas. Don’t do digital for digital sake… do digital to enhance the shopper experience.

By taking a strategic approach, it allows you to test and learn about what’s working and what’s not:

  • Does it help the shopper with product selection, wayfinding, promotions, etc.?
  • Would the shopper be more likely to come back to the store or purchase the product because of a good experience?
  • Would the shopper be more likely to become a loyal shopper, understanding that content is being tailored to them?

Eventually, once trust is gained, shoppers may take the next step of downloading an app and giving up some personal information.

The Mobile Fit

Understand the best way to utilize mobile—now and in the future. While 68% of shoppers use their mobile device while shopping, unfortunately, the majority of them use a browser versus a native mobile app. Embrace this trend and give them everything they need on the website.

When evaluating mobile, the following are a few areas to consider:

  • A mobile check-out option for the staff could be of benefit.
  • Shoppers aren’t downloading, and certainly not continuing to use, apps on their mobile devices.
  • Develop strategies to get shoppers to opt-in for more personalized content—screens, text to learn more, etc.

The fact is, retailers need to start now to understand it’s a process of incorporating both shoppers’ expectations and technology evolution. We all recognize that shoppers expect the experience to evolve, and there’s no better time to plan for future growth. As shoppers get more comfortable with the retailer or brand and enjoy the more tailored experience, it’s possible to take a more successful, personalized approach that drives loyalty and sales.