Creating an enjoyable and exciting shopping experience has always been a means of differentiation for brick-and-mortar stores. But in today’s world of digital commerce, where everything is available at all times and with complete price transparency, creating a better in-store experience is not just a way to stand out, it’s a requisite for survival.
When it comes to the growing importance of the shopping experience, the data paints a clear picture. According to a global 2018 study by PWC, a third of consumers said that they would stop interacting with a brand they loved based on just one bad experience. The same study also found that companies who provide a great experience could charge up to a 16% price premium on their products and services, a significant number in these times of shrinking margins for retailers.
Many companies have also realized the need to improve their customer experience and investments in CX are on the rise. Despite the investments, however, customers are still not satisfied with the experiences they’re getting. According to the PWC study, less than half of US consumers said that they thought that companies provide a good experience today and retail is one of the industries with the biggest gap between customer expectations and their satisfaction with the experiences they actually get.
How to improve the experience
Kill the queues
One strength of online retail is that it’s quick and efficient, and the lack of efficiency is big problem for many brick-and-mortar retailers. PWC found that 40% of consumers would stop doing business with a brand due to an inefficient experience.
One example of inefficiency is queueing. According to a 2019 survey by the payments company Adyen, 70% of shoppers had left a store and abandoned their purchase due to a long line, equalling £284bn in abandoned sales. They also found that younger shoppers where a lot more likely to abandon a purchase when faced with a long line. At the same time, 90% of shoppers said that they were somewhat or very satisfied with their experience when there were no lines or very short lines. For those reasons, using technology that minimizes queues, like mobile POS terminals and self checkouts, can be really effective ways of improving your in-store experience.
In one British study, long lines were listed as the most annoying part of shopping. In second and third place came ”product being out-of-stock” and ”difficulty in finding products”. This is also mirrored by the Adyen survey, where 90% of consumers said that they had left a store without buying something because they couldn’t find a specific item. That equals £369bn in lost sales annually.
This problem offers an obvious opportunity for unified commerce technology. According to the Adyen survey, 40% of consumers said that the possibility to order out-of-stock items in a store and having them shipped to their home would encourage them to shop more in-store.
Provide a human touch
Perhaps the biggest difference between the in-store and online experience is the human element, and you should use that to your advantage. Human interactions affect our experience in more ways than you might think. Psychologists have found that people actually enjoy a massage chair more if a human controls the massage mechanism than if a computer does it. People also enjoy the taste of candy more if it has been selected for them by a human rather than selected randomly.
So, the human interaction can add value but it can also cost you if it’s not done right. When PWC looked at why customers stop doing business with a company, three of the top four reasons were connected to the human interaction: bad employee attitudes, unfriendly service and unknowledgeable employees. To avoid these types of interactions it’s important to focus on recruiting the right people and training them correctly. But it’s also a question of giving employees the right tools to succeed. From our own experience, we know that using mobile POS systems helps staff deliver a better service by giving them access to more product information and making the whole sales process easier. You get happier employees and that leads to happier customers.
Personalization is another area where you can learn a lot from online retail. Online merchants are often great at using customer data to create tailored offers, product recommendations and personal experiences for customers - which drives sales and creates loyal customers. In a 2019 study, McKinsey found that 83% of customers wanted more personalized shopping experiences and that effective personalization could increase store revenues by up to 30%.
For in-store retail, the challenge is often how to collect the data needed in order to offer similar benefits. But there is no lack of tools that can help you capture and analyze all the data that stores already generate, and when combined with loyalty programmes and unified commerce capabilities, this can be an extremely effective tool for improving your in-store experience.
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