Retail as an experience – changes to in-store shopping
Bricks-and-mortar stores are continuing to recover after the pandemic and there seems to be an important shift in how consumers and brands are approaching in-store shopping: no longer is it just a transactional process (that role is now mostly fulfilled by online shopping), but rather it is becoming an experience, a service provided to the consumer. Customers want to browse, try out products, get personalized advice that they cannot get online, but they also want to be entertained.
The rise of flagship stores and ‘new store concepts’ from major brands is a strong indicator of this shift: these stores are no longer just a place where customers go to buy something, but a way for them to experience and strengthen their connection to the brand, to find out about the newest trends and products or to participate in curated events such as new product and service launches, meetings with brand ambassadors or product trials. Some are even going a step further and are creating a local community hub where fans and customers of the brand can come together.
But while not every shop can become a flagship store, there are a number of things that retailers can do to provide a more service-based shopping experience to customers.
What can you do to improve the experience appeal of your store?
Tailor the shop to your local audience. Maybe one of the easier ways to appeal to audiences that want personalized experiences is the localization of your shop. Use graphics, messages and props to transform your shop into “their” local shop, and not just another interchangeable brand store. Including local references such as landmarks, historical events or traditions could all be ways to make your store feel like it is part of the local community.
Make sure you develop “curb appeal” through signage, window displays and lightning to encourage customers to enter your shop – making sure customers are actually in your store is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Whether it be attention-catching window displays, on-the-day offers, a welcoming atmosphere, or interactive activities – try to find something that will resonate with your audience. The use of scent is also becoming more widely used; use relevant smells based on what you sell to attract customers into your store.
Remember that visual is still extremely important: studies show that 93% of all communication is visual, with the desire to read or interact with something increased by 80% if it includes coloured visuals. Our brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so don’t forget to include eye-catching displays both in your windows and across the store. New technologies such as augmented and virtual reality can also be a strong tool to give your customers an unforgettable experience, and the interactive nature of these new technologies will be an additional way to draw people into your store.
Create a comfortable environment that entices your customers to spend more time in your shop – after all, customers who spend more time generally spend more money. Consider seating, refreshments, and highlighting the benefits of shopping in store vs online: nice fitting rooms, ways to try out the product, or sample stations could be some of the options, along with a friendly team who further enhance the experience!
You might want to consider hosting events in your shop, from one-off pop-up events such as product launches or expert talks, to recurring masterclasses or get togethers. Maybe there is a local community group that covers your target market, who you can liaise with to use your shop for an event, or you could organize a fundraiser to support a worthy cause. Or include a playful element and host a treasure hunt or similar. The possibilities are nearly endless, and it doesn’t have to be a grand affair that will cost you a lot of time and effort to organize.
What else is changing?
There are other, more practical services that are now a key part of the retail environment: shops are starting to function as fulfilment centres for online orders, where these can either be picked up or returned after ordering online. Are you offering this service already? If not, it might be time to consider introducing it. If you are, how about creating a dedicated desk or area just for these transactions, to make the process as smooth as possible both for your customers and your operations? But rather than trying to get these customers in and out of your shop as quickly as possible, consider the potential: you now have people in your shop that have already bought from you before, so why not try to convert them into returning customers? Design the area with that in mind, show them your newest products, or maybe include interactive screens that can offer them personalized suggestions on what to try out while in store, or customized offers and promotions.
The opposite will also be true: there will always be people that might just come for the experience, and then still buy the product online later: rather than seeing this as a problem, turn it into an advantage by making the shopping experience and switching between in-store and online as seamless as possible. Whether it’s a fully integrated app, or just QR codes on your products that lead the customer directly to your website or preferred marketplace, you can take this opportunity to direct them to where you want them to buy.
If you are looking for a full-service partner for your next retail campaign, why not contact us to see how we can help?
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