The customer experience is what drives sales at retail. According to Bloomberg News, The NRF has forecast $630.5 billion in spending during the November-December holiday period, a 3.7 percent increase over last season.
“The bottom line is customers value the personal experience of the physical store,” said Gary Ambrosino, CEO of TimeTrade. “We found that shoppers have done their shopping or discovery online, then go into the store to get help with their final purchase decision.”
Where would you rather shop for the holidays?
Here? A creepy store with creepy mannequins and a creepy window display?
Or here? A well thought out and executed engaging window.
Online research agrees that up to 85% of consumers prefer to make in store purchases. This includes millennial to baby boomers. The reasons? Shoppers want to touch and feel product. They want in store knowledge that can’t reliably be found online. They want instant gratification. They want easy returns and exchanges and to save on shipping charges when they can.
Creating an inviting customer experience in a brick and mortar location involves the usual laundry list of “must have’s”. That is: good lighting, easy to read signage, easy to navigate floor plan, product that is organized and cross merchandised, knowledgeable and friendly employees, clean floors, clean mirrors, clean dressing rooms, an efficient check out and an overall aesthetic in product selection and presentation that brings repeat customers back and attracts new ones. Whew.
Let’s pretend for a minute that you have an unlimited operational budget and more floor space than you know what to do with. Read on.
There are a few notable retailers that are creatively finding ways to create a memorable customer experience at retail that can’t be found online. One retailer is Lululemon. They are dedicating one third of an 11,000 square foot retail space in their largest flagship to date in NYC’s Flatiron district to a new shop concept called Hub Seventeen. The dedicated space is what they are calling a “community gathering space”, where you can take a yoga class, attend a concert or take advantage of a concierge service that assists in booking classes elsewhere in the city. Read more here.
In March of this year, The North Face launched a virtual reality fantasy experience in its Chicago retail location and has been expanding this feature into other select shops in San Francisco and NYC. Now shoppers can strap on special headsets and headphones and launch off a cliff in Utah – virtually of course. Read about it here.
For those of us closer to earth, Retail Minded recently shared some tips on their website supplied by Square, Inc. for retailers looking to take some stress out of holiday shopping with uniquely original and fun events you can easily replicate in your store. Read about these memorable experiences your customers will value and share with their friends. Learn more about it here.
Aesthetic changes like switching out your standard slat wall for a look and feel that is warm and welcoming and captures your brand in a sensory way is an effective, immediate way to elevate the customer experience.
Dimensional Impact produces an array of innovative slat wall options. See more here.
Other ways to add to a positive retail experience is to offer in store workshops, classes and special events throughout the year. Equate your store with a place of learning, trust and information.
So while many of us don’t have the time or unlimited budgets during this busy holiday season, there are always small steps to enhance a shopper’s in store experience. Light some pleasantly holiday scented candles. Serve hot cider. Order gift boxes and offer them to your customers when they make a purchase. Order tissue paper for the gift boxes. Show classic holiday movies if you have a DVD player.
Retail still rules. Happy holidays!