By Katri Hurskainen | HappyOrNot
E-commerce is killing the high street. Amazon is killing brick and mortar stores. Millennials are killing retail.
You’ve no doubt heard this chorus of doom and gloom for the future of retail. But should high street retailers simply raise their white flag and accept their days are numbered?
E-commerce doesn’t have to be the enemy. In fact, high street retailers actually have an advantage over pure e-commerce brands. By converging your online and offline efforts to deliver a seamless customer experience, you can thrive in today’s retail landscape.
When you stop focusing on how the internet is killing your business, you’ll have time to focus on what matters: improving your customer experience.
As a high street retailer, delivering a great in-store experience is your key to success. Here are 7 concrete ways you can get there:
1. Focus on excellent customer service
Many millennials prefer to shop online, but still appreciate the in-store experience. In fact, 83% of shoppers think stores are important since they allow you to touch, see, and feel an item in person, according to Mindshare’s “Future of Retail CX” research report. And a whopping 98% of Gen Z shop in stores “some or most of the time,” according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Today’s shoppers want an in-store experience that is beyond transactional, making the human touch highly important. We’re all human, and we still have the need to interact with each other.
It’s less important that shoppers buy something on the spot, and more important that they leave happy. Think of the products you sell as souvenirs from your customer experience. Whether shoppers buy a specific product in store or online, your frontline staff should help them make confident purchasing decisions.
To keep your customers happy, you need to ensure your employees are happy. Only motivated and engaged frontline staff can provide an experience that will keep customers coming back for more. Train your employees to focus on CX and offer knowledge rather than push products.
2. Offer a convenient and seamless shopping experience
When discussing how customers shop today, we often use the term “omnichannel.” But customers don’t see the retail experience in terms of channels —they see a retail brand as a single entity. And they don’t want the experience through one channel to be any less seamless than another.
Simply selling across different channels is not enough—the challenge is delivering a consistent and seamless CX no matter how customers decide to buy from you. To live up to customer expectations, retailers need to break down the silos and ensure the shopping experience is smooth sailing across all touchpoints.
Just as your website should be clear and easy to navigate, the products in your store should be well organized and easily accessible. Ensure impeccable visual merchandising, set up product demos when possible, and use appropriate shelf heights.
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3. Give your customers what they can’t get online
The high street isn’t dead—it’s evolving. To be part of the future of retail, you need to be more than a store.
You can’t just display your products and expect customers to come flooding in. Why should shoppers fight the high street retail crowd when they can shop in their pajamas from the comfort of their home?
Give shoppers a reason to venture out by providing a meaningful and memorable in-store experience. Make your store a place for customers to try products, hang out, speak with experts, and get inspired.
Host in-store events that instill a sense of community where shoppers can learn new things and interact with other. When Uniqlo launched its global flagship store on Oxford Street, for example, it held a competition called “Unlock London,” which included a giveaway on the store’s rooftop.
Many retailers find success by offering relevant in-store treatments or services. Topshop, for instance, offers free personal shopping, as well as a range of hair and beauty services. Including food and drink pop-ups in your store will also give customers a space to relax and will establish your store as a community hub.
4. Make personalization a priority
Your customers already know you collect information about them. But it’s not enough to gather a bunch of data—they expect you to use that information to provide them with an impeccable shopping experience.
69% of consumers want an individualised experience and two-thirds expect it, according to CloudIQ research. Yet only 40% of brands actually offer one today.
To stand out from the competition and drive customers to your stores, be obsessive about analyzing their preferences. Failing to do so could cost you customers: 91% of shoppers are more likely to shop from brands that use their name, know their preferences, and provide personal recommendations, according to an Accenture report.
Send out personalized email content that lands in your customers’ inbox at just the right time. You can send recommendations based on their previous purchases or based on what people like them bought.
Through personalization, you can increase customer loyalty and boost sales—it’s another way of converging your online and offline channels to delight your customers.
5. Use in-store technology to enhance the shopping experience
When used the right way, technology can have a huge positive impact on your in-store experience.
Zara, for example, uses interactive fitting rooms that allow shoppers to request a different size at the touch of a button. Other tech-savvy stores have been using “smart mirrors” that allow shoppers to flip through outfits and test products in 3D.
Shoppers might feel overwhelmed by the amount of products in stores, so some retailers have started using indoor mapping. Through a mobile app, customers can see a store’s real-time inventory and easily find products.
You can also enable shoppers to access your website in store, which lets them see products you may not have on site. Your sales associates can then place an order for them and ship it to their home.
Since long queue times are a major deterrent to in-store shopping, the best retailers are offering a streamlined way to make purchases. By using credit card machines and iPads rather than tills points, you can dramatically minimize wait times.
6. Get real-time feedback
The best technology makes the complex simple.
One of the most effective technology investments is an in-store feedback solution. To get accurate data on how your customers feel, you need to collect feedback at the exact moment of interaction. Annual surveys that get low response rates are not effective—most shoppers can’t be bothered to fill out complex forms after they’ve left your store, and retailers don’t want to spend months analyzing the results.
Since customer satisfaction is always changing, feedback collection is a constant process. You need to know how your customers are feeling at all times to meet and exceed their expectations.
One of the largest independent retailers in the UK, Central England Co-operative, uses real-time feedback to stay competitive in a crowded marketplace. Once they understood their store performance—from product selection to queue times—they were able to correct inefficiencies and show their customers that their feedback has an impact.
When you make it easy, customers will give feedback every day. You can then immediately act on that feedback to improve the in-store experience.
7. Use one platform to measure online and in-store CX
There is no typical shopping journey today. To ensure your customers have a smooth experience no matter how they choose to shop, you need to measure CX across all channels.
It’s easy to measure online and offline CX when you use the same platform. In addition to your in-store feedback solution, you can implement a similar digital version in e-commerce to see what channels are working well and which need improvements.
Customers don’t interact with channels, they interact with brands. When you measure and analyze CX across all touchpoints, you’ll be able to deliver a smooth shopping experience that entices customers to return to your store.
Want more tips for happier customers? Sign up for our 5-day training course “5 Days to Happier Retail Customers” and start creating a better in-store shopping experience with customer feedback!