Shopping not shipping: The art and science of in-store retailing

How physical retail experiences top online shopping experiences.

Few shoppers buy exclusively online, but if traditional retailers want to stay competitive in the 24/7 retail landscape they have to use the advantages of their physical retail environment. With online shopping rising every year, here’s five in-store tips that retailers can use to enhance the customer experience.

1. Engagement that makes sense

In a physical store, retailers have the opportunity to control the shopping environment in a manner that online stores do not. Retailers need to create an environment that engages shoppers through different senses, from visual cues that attract and hold customers’ attention, to the soundtrack retailers use in-store to appeal to a particular demographic. Physical retailers can even develop a signature scent for their brand. In fact, retailers with a scent solution retain shoppers for an average of 15 minutes longer than those without.

2. Make mobile work for you

Retailers shouldn’t think of smartphones as a tool for online shopping, but as a way they can enhance their in-store environment. Three in four shoppers use their mobile devices while shopping in a physical store. Delivering added value to the consumer like personalised offers and exclusive in-store deals via mobile enhancements, including holograms, RFID and location-based marketing rewards them for buying products there and then.

3. Reduce checkout times

The pleasure of shopping comes from the browsing and decision-making stages. The checkout stage is a necessary annoyance both online and in physical stores. Reducing the checkout process time of the retail experience, will increase customers’ satisfaction with shopping in-store, and free retail staff, allowing them to provide better customer service. Retailers are starting to invest in technology that will help speed up – or even eliminate – the checkout process. For example, Amazon Go enables customers to purchase products by scanning items with their smartphone. As their phone is connected to a payment system, customers can leave the store without lining up to finalise the purchase.

4. Combine digital and real-world experiences

Another great way to create a seamless brand experience between your online store and your physical store is offering a ‘click and collect’ solution. This method allows shoppers to browse and buy online – leveraging the 24/7 nature of online platforms – and then pick up on location. The physical visit to the store to collect their purchase often prompts the shopper to buy additional items. Leading retailers that leverage this seamless experience report increased basket sizes.

Retailers can also marry the best of a digital shopping experience with their in-store space. One advantage online shopping has over physical retail is search, so retailers are using real-time mapping apps with beacon technology to help shoppers locate certain items while in store. This can be promoted as a time-saving benefit and also gives retailers an opportunity to create mobile offers.

5. Increase customer service

Poor customer service remains an obstacle for online shopping platforms. Currently one in three retailers do not respond to customer service requests via email, and customer service bots only solve part of the problem as they often have a limited ability to address specific needs. According to Jochen Wirtz and Ron Kaufman in The Harvard Business Review, the best customer service comes from well-trained employees who have both the freedom to help, and the support they need to make that help meaningful.

By investing in a good team, customer service is an advantage in-store. When a shopper needs help in a physical retail environment, they know they are engaging with a human who can respond to complex enquiries and empathise with their needs. Unlike bots, staff can tailor their approach in line with the type of help a customer requires and in a manner to which the customer is most responsive.

To do this effectively, customer service staff need to have access to information that can help solve customers’ issues and also be empowered to act if the issue cannot be resolved on the spot. There also needs to be consistency amongst staff and across all stores. Just as each store’s music must elevate the customer experience and be in line with the retailer’s brand and customer values, so must each staff member who represents the business.

There are several advantages a real-world retail environment has over an online store. By enhancing an in-store experience, retailers can make shopping more pleasurable and rewarding for customers to encourage repeat business at physical stores.

Steve Hughes is the Managing Director of Mood Media Australia. Mood Media delivers sensory branding, including background music, digital signage, scent branding and mobile marketing to more than 500,000 active client locations around the globe.



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