The ‘ins and outs’ of the new fashion store experience

What does a world-class store experience look like today? Almost 75% of retail sales still happen in physical stores, but the role of stores has changed drastically.

In this engaging panel discussion, led by Tulip’s CEO Ali Asaria and key leaders from prestige fashion retailers, Marco Benasedo from Boggi Milano, Brendon Gerisch from John Elliott and Rissa Jarratt from Jenni Kayne.

The panellists discussed the role of the store, what separates the ‘best stores’ from the rest, and the steps required to build a modern premium store experience. Three clear themes emerged: firstly developing exceptional store team, secondly a shift from ‘personalised’ to ‘personal’ and finally, unobtrusive technology.

Tulip Retail is the world’s first cloud-based retail platform built exclusively for store teams. It was founded in 2013 by a team of mobile and e-commerce experts who are passionate about shaping the future in-store experience.

Tulip brings the best of online shopping to the selling floor with an intuitive, simple to use mobile app that enables, assisted selling, endless aisle, ‘clienteling’, store communications and point of sale.

Leading retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Kate Spade, Coach, Frye Boots, Bonobos, and Toys R Us use Tulip to help them deliver an unparalleled omnichannel shopping experience.

The panel agreed that something was still missing in creating exceptional customer instore experiences. Asaria suggested, “we feel store experience could be done better. It needs and big push. We need to unlock new technology to improve the experience.”

It was suggested that post pandemic, customers are not going back to the way things were before the pandemic. Great ‘experience’ was once defined by location and inventory. Today, things are very different, and customers are more demanding.

Rissa Jarret said, “we want shoppers to ‘feel’ the experience. It’s not just product, price and layout, it’s becoming an emotional element, that can only be delivered by great people instore”.

Brendon Gerisch agreed, further adding, “at John Elliott, our people in our stores must have a genuine desire to connect and engage with our customers. Great experiences are an outcome of great people.”

Post-pandemic, Gerisch indicated that had expanded physical stores. “The customers want’s to touch and feel products, something that they couldn’t really do for three year years. We have really seen this in the last 9 months. This is something we can’t do online”.

When seeking to impress customer, Gerisch suggested they went back to basics. “We have out teams add short, hand-written notes in packages, with purchases. Customers genuinely respond well to these personal messages. We remember details of our customers and employ instore CRM  to understand when their birthdays are, their kids birthdays, and special events”.

Marco Benasedo continued, saying that once a month is ‘bouquet day’. “We give flowers to shoppers. We give them surprises, things they were not expecting”.

There is a clear difference between ‘personal’ and ‘personalised’.

Customers are being overwhelmed by ‘personalise’ marketing communication daily. Getting ‘cut through’ and reach is challenging. We are now shifting to being ‘personal’.

Gerisch offered, “we use ‘scripts’ to help our teams develop authentic relationships with our customers instore. This is helpful in the beginning, particularly for new team members during the onboarding experience. It builds their confidence, so they can ‘learn’ the skills in how to connect with customers, without scripts. We ‘lean’ on our teams to provide personal experiences.”

Jarret added, “we want our customer to pop in to get a treat for their dog. Again, it’s a ‘personal, unexpected’ experience. It’s much better that just an email, that is addressed to a someone”.

Being ‘responsive’ is challenging.

Asaria suggested, “it’s not easy to deploy changes in the market. Stores are historically slow, constrained by working hours.  It’s hard to make stores ‘agile’”.

Jarret admitted that traditionally, “we have encumbered our stores. We make a change online, then expect stores to replicate those changes quickly, to ensure consistency”.

As a solution, Gerisch offered, “we have structure and frameworks ensure changes in one channel, can be implemented across all channels quickly, without impacting on store teams. This enables them to focus on customers, not on tasks”.

The question was raised, what do brands get wrong about the store experience?

The panel suggested too much focus on product, price, and promotion. All those elements can be replicated quickly by competitors. Experience isn’t being ‘the cheapest’ or having the ‘biggest range’.

Gerisch suggested, “allow the product to tell the story. Use digital screens throughout the store that inform and education customers how to ‘pair’ items together, rather than having a team member shadow and stalk. Layout and flow is important, as is blending instore digital media, to entertain and educate”.

Technology can have a negative impact on the customer experience if not done well.

Benasedo suggested, “technology can provide a great experience to customers, but, if the team or customer can’t use it, the technology becomes a barrier to the experience. The challenge is in deployment of technology to stores. If it is not intuitive to use, it can significantly impact on the overall experience”.

Gerisch added, “a sign of good technology is that it is ‘quiet’, it should be natural and intuitive, rather than ‘in your face’. Technology should support our busy lifestyles and fast paced retail environments. Not be a barrier.”

In relation to future predictions, all panellists suggested they were ‘leading into physical’ and planning expansion and international markets. There was an expectations that customers would continue to ‘swing between online and physical’, so it is vital retailers offer a consistent, omni-experience.

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