How has retail changed over time?

As technology advances, brick-and-mortar stores will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of consumers. In fact, 75 percent of consumers still want to see a product in stores before making a purchase. This doesn’t mean retailers aren’t changing their in-store strategies to fit the evolving needs of their consumers. With a shift toward experience-based stores instead of consumption-based, retailers have revamped the shopping process.

Consumers are now looking to spend their money on personalized experiences rather than goods. In fact, 41 percent of customers are loyal to brands that offer them the opportunity to personalize products. Consumers’ focus has shifted from quantity of goods to the quality of their time. To stand out, brands are doing many different things to turn some of their key locations into destinations. What can you do to make sure your brand fits the bill?

How brands create a shopping destination

  1. Augmented Reality: Many brands have apps that show what their products would look like on you using AR technology. Even more impressively, brands have begun including AR technology inside some of their store locations. Charlotte Tilbury, for example, added a “magic mirror” to their London location. Using AR technology, they can scan a customer’s face and show them what they’d look like in Charlotte Tilbury makeup without needing to try anything on. Other stores that have implemented AR features are Timberland, which uses a virtual fitting room in one of their window displays, and Topshop, which uses an AR fitting room in their Moscow location.
  2. Flagship Stores: Having a flagship store creates a destination for your consumers. Some of the most notable stores include:
    1. Samsung: The Samsung 837 store in New York is solely an experience space. The store has a three-story screen and theater-style seating which allows them to host events for their customers. Customers can learn about and use various Samsung products, but there are no items for sale in the store.
    2. Adidas: Adidas’s flagship store is also in New York. They’ve created an experience in this location by including fitting rooms that look and feel like a locker room, a track to use and test their products, and bleachers to watch the game.

The purpose of these and other flagship stores is to create an experience that allows customers to interact with the brand without needing to make a purchase. The focus is on entertaining rather than selling. Using entertainment as their main goal creates a strong customer bond and establishes brand loyalty which will likely lead to a sale later in the customer lifecycle.

  1. Pop-up Shops: Pop-up shops are one of the best ways to create an interactive experience for your customers. Giving them a chance to see and try on products before making a purchase will also help create brand loyalty. Creating a pop-up shop for a new product launch or in a highly populated location where the store isn’t currently located will attract new customers and give them an experience that can’t be replicated. At pop-up shops, consumers are expecting something more than can be offered at a traditional brick-and-mortar store. The limited time frame and originality make them a big success, while they’re available.

Society is moving away from using stores as a point of purchase and moving toward using them as an opportunity to interact with products while engaging in a branded setting. With that being said, non-flagship stores are able to create engaging experiences as well. They may not all have a track in the middle of their store, but the way they place their products, the friendliness of the staff, the smell of the store, and the music (choices and volume level) are all important parts of creating an experience for customers.

There are many techniques that can be used to create an environment that can draw in customers. Most of which are much more accessible and can easily be included in any store at any time.

  1. Product availability: Having products available in-store will make a big difference in the customer experience. Sometimes, they may only be looking to test or try on the product before making a purchase decision. If they’re not able to see and conceptualize what the product can do for them, it will strongly decrease the likelihood that they’ll purchase the product.
  2. Experiences: This category doesn’t need to be something extravagant. Things like the volume of the music, the smell inside the store, lighting, friendliness of the staff, and other details will make a huge difference to a customer. The slightest adjustment in any of these categories will change the customer’s experience in one way or another.
  3. Reliability: Use tested methods to execute an in-store experience that is both consistent and effective. You’ll want to make sure the experience you create is properly executed and valued by your customers.
  4. Brand Loyalty: Creating an experience can also be about creating brand loyalty. What can the customer do with your product that makes it unique? How can your brand make an experience better or enhance it in any way? Brand loyalty can be created through your messaging, images/videos in-store, in-store interactions and cleanliness, and more.

How actionable data can guide your retail decisions

We know that consumers are still looking for in-store experiences, but what about online? Online shopping continues to grow due to the introduction of buy-online and pick-up in store, and subscription boxes. Combining the in-store experience with the convenience of online purchases has created a new era of retail.

You don’t need to spend your entire marketing budget to create a show-stopping in-store experience. Building something like a flagship store is helpful, but they’re not necessary for a one-of-a-kind experience, nor is it realistic for all of your store locations. Providing personalization and a top-of-the-line retail experience will help put your brand on the map in this experience-driven world.

How will you know if the changes you’ve introduced are making an impact on your business? That’s where Wiser comes into play. Using mobile in-store crowdsourced data, you can track customer sentiment, associate knowledge, shelf health, display compliance, and more. You can see in near real-time if the value of the experience you’ve created has increased customer loyalty and purchases. Customer sentiment questions, in this case, will give you a candid look at how customers feel about your stores, their shopping experiences, and any changes they might want to see. Customers can give you the information you need to ensure you’re getting the results you want.

Conclusion

Online and in-store retail is working in conjunction to create an omnichannel network that benefits both consumers and brands. With an in-store shift toward experiential shopping and an online shift toward convenience and personalization, the perfect storm has brewed. With personalization at the forefront, creating an experience tailored to each customer has never been more important.

Crafting a unique experience doesn’t mean spending a fortune to turn every store into a flagship store. It can be something as simple as the music, free samples, or a positive interaction with a sales associate. Sometimes creating an experience is about creating brand loyalty as well. Showing customers what you can do with a product, the longevity, and the memories they can make while using the brand are simple but effective methods for creating brand loyalty. As consumers’ needs and interests begin to shift, retail will change with those needs. With continual changes being made, it’s more important than ever to understand the consumers and adapt to the retail environment that fits their needs.

Carissa Loria

Carissa is the Community Manager at Wiser, the leading provider of actionable data for better decisions. She holds a BS in Marketing from the University of Rhode Island.

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