Many are finding that consumers are loyal to the overall shopping experience.
By Sara Gupta
Today’s retailers are facing an uphill battle. Consumer shopping behavior is continuously changing, and among larger retailers like mass merchants, wholesalers or grocery chains, there is fierce competition for shopper loyalty.
Most leading retailers carry the same products from the same brands, leaving consumers with multiple choices when deciding where to shop. When shoppers can find the products they want almost anywhere, how can retailers differentiate? Many are finding that consumers are more loyal to the overall shopping experience, not the products themselves.
The term “customer experience” gets thrown around a lot in the retail industry, for good reason.
It is imperative for today’s retailers to provide a positive, seamless, end-to-end shopping experience, meaning that the digital and physical realms should be integrated, with a close understanding of the customer at every touchpoint. It is easier said than done, but here are three tangible ways to improve the customer experience and keep shoppers returning.
Online shopping is easy and convenient. The major downside, however, is the inability to see, feel and try a product before purchase. In an effort to bring the convenience and efficiency of online shopping into the brick-and-mortar experience, many retailers have changed the way they design and run their stores.
Recent research from Bazaarvoice found that nearly half of shoppers believe that it is important or very important for retailers to provide digital in-store experiences like auto-checkout, online ordering and mobile offers. The common theme: they make shopping easier and quicker. The biggest example of this is the adoption of buy online, pick up in-store services (BOPIS). According to eMarketer, more than half of North American retailers offer BOPIS service. Through this option, consumers save on shipping fees and, if necessary, can return or exchange products right away. Retailers benefit from both the saved shipping expense and getting consumers to the store.
Similarly, several retailers have rolled out mobile checkout in the last year. Nothing deters consumers like a slow-moving checkout line. Mobile checkout speeds up the process of purchasing without having to wait in line or interact with store employees. Furthermore, it enables retailers to collect valuable transaction data.
Perhaps most interesting is how the design of today’s physical store is evolving. This often takes the form of smaller layouts, convenient displays and technology-inspired interfaces. For example, Target has prioritized small concept stores, which are stocked with inventory curated to the local population. REI and Nordstrom build experiences like climbing walls, special events and dining into their physical stores for increased engagement. By changing the way they approach the in-store customer experience, retailers can attract shoppers and create more meaningful customer relationships.