The in-store retail experience – why it still matters

The in-store customer retail experience is as important as ever – we explore why it matters and examine seven ways that retailers can enhance it

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Retailers all around the world are re-opening their doors. Some faster than others, and some still with limitations in place. But overall, restrictions are easing and the move back to the malls and the high streets is starting.

If retailers are to make the most of the end of restrictions, and lure shoppers back in-store though, they have to offer something pretty special. The last 18 months have changed shoppers’ behaviour – and it’s looking like those changes will be with us for the long term. Retailers are realising that the retail experience is more important than ever.

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Why retail experience is important

Some shoppers have got very comfortable with browsing and buying online. It’s easy and convenient, and retailers have to work hard to overcome this ‘new normal’ and give shoppers good reason to come back into the brick and mortar store.

In other cases, shoppers want to come back, but are nervous after the pandemic – to lure this cohort back into stores, retailers need to offer a safe experience, with less contact.

Others are looking forward to getting back to brick and mortar stores, but have become more demanding. The personalised customer experience of online shopping has ‘spoiled’ them and they expect the same level of attention in the store.

  • Embracing the best of digital – for shoppers who love the convenience of online, digital transformation brings the best features of online into the store.
  • Online/offline integration – for shoppers whose journey to purchase weaves between channels, retailers are focussing on online/offline integration. They want shoppers to see the store as an extension of online, and vice versa.

In a recent retail report, analysts McKinsey said that ‘four-wall profitability should be a comprehensive and holistic measure that takes into account the cross-channel sales contribution of the store’

  • Differentiating the store – with online now an integral part of the shopping landscape, stores must offer something different – an experience that shoppers simply cannot get without coming through the doors.

How to enhance the retail experience

What does this look like in practice? How do retailers bring all three of these elements into their stores for the ultimate customer experience? Here’s seven ways that retailers can enhance the retail experience:

  1. Personalised customer experience – using a loyalty program to send customers tailored offers, not just when they’re online, but to their mobile device, before a shopping trip, when they’re close to the store and as they are in-store and browsing.
  2. Analytics – capturing data about customers’ purchase patterns in-store as well as online, and using it to understand their buying behaviours.
  3. Online/offline integration – Shopping options such as BOPIS/Click and Collect, curbside pickup, and in-store return of online purchases integrate channels and are the perfect way to ease customers back into in-store shopping.
  4. Assisted selling – differentiate the store by enabling assistants with mobile POS The sales assistant becomes a customer advocate, they can see the customer’s browsing history, check stock and check the customer out. All without leaving the customer’s side, offering a very interactive and personalised customer experience.
  5. Endless aisle – combining the experience of seeing the goods ‘for real’ in the store, with having a full view of all stock options. For example, in fashion, a customer finds an item they love not in the colour they want. They try on for size, then use the endless aisle mobile POS to find their colour in another store, or online, and order and pay.
  6. Rapid checkout – for those who want to ‘get in, get out’, in the safest way, self-checkout, mobile POS and contactless payments must be part of the shopping experience if they’re to come into the store.
  7. Experiences – to really differentiate the store, retailers can put on events, trials, product demonstrations. These turn the brick and mortar store into a destination, a place to go to be educated and entertained, as well as to shop.

As restrictions lift, retailers are working hard to get shoppers back in store. As the smart operators have realised, when it comes to when it comes to brick and mortar shopping, retail experience is everything.

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