These days, customers are spoiled for choice. They can shop online from the comfort of their couch or head to a brick-and-mortar store to check out items in person. They can access whatever they want, pretty much whenever they want.
With online retail and an abundance of physical retailers, businesses are competing on one very important aspect: the retail customer experience.
Like the customer experience, the retail experience will depend on your product base, business model, and target audience. However, in this article, we’ll go through eight retail experience strategies you can implement to make sure your business is ready for whatever the future of retail brings.
8 best strategies to create an engaging retail experience for your customers:
- Bring customer data to life
- Use your POS as a customer retention tool
- Take retail merchandising to the next level
- Optimize customer support across all channels
- Surprise customers with freebies
- Invoke a sense of local community
- Offer hands-on product experiences
- Give customers social media opportunities
1. Bring customer data to life
If you’re not using the data within your retail management tool to curate valuable and memorable experiences for your customers, you’re missing out on a huge trick. Retail systems hold a wealth of customer data you can use to understand what influences purchase decisions and what experiences mean the most.
Many businesses rely on their retail management solutions for their retail inventory management needs only, ignoring the large amounts of other valuable data in the system. When you dive into reports with retail management tool talech, for example, you’re able to view a variety of beneficial information such as bestselling items and bestselling suppliers.
This information will give you better insight into your purchase order priorities.
The data in these systems can also be used to adapt product assortments, diversify your marketing efforts, and influence stock displays. For example, if you know customers tend to buy a purse with a specific wallet, showcase those items together. Or, if a product is overwhelmingly popular, you can display it more prominently.
Of course, customer data benefits you as a retailer, but it also benefits customers. Having a better idea of what they want, and how and when they want it makes their shopping experience streamlined and enjoyable.
2. Use your POS as a customer retention tool
Your POS system also contains a huge amount of customer data that can help you retain previous customers. The best thing about using this data is that it costs you nothing more.
Here are a couple of ways you can use your POS tool to retain customers:
- Use customer order history to recommend products: According to research by Salesforce, almost two-thirds of customers want personalized offers from retail brands. You know your products better than anyone, so use that knowledge plus your customer history to suggest new products to customers based on a combination of the two.
- Create customer loyalty programs: Based on the information your POS system collects, you can create specialized customer segments and offer them targeted discounts. Even better, you'll help them collect points and rewards.
3. Take retail merchandising to the next level
Getting retail design and merchandising right requires you to put yourself in your customer's shoes.
Let’s consider a typical customer journey:
- First: Jenny parks her car outside her local shopping mall. She’s on the hunt for a birthday present for her sister and has a few ideas in mind, but nothing concrete. She enters the mall and browses a few of the stores she’d usually go to, but nothing takes her fancy so far.
- Next: On her way to another store, a window display catches her attention. It’s a stationery store (perfect, Jenny’s sister is a notebook hoarder) whose storefront window is full of color-coordinated bundles of Moleskine products. She enters the store, just to browse.
- Then: Once she’s inside, she's led around the store by well-thought-out product displays and great signage. She even gets her sister’s notebook personalized with her initials at the store’s personalization station.
- Last: At the counter, she sees a small product display with bundles of pens and a mug that matches the color of her sister’s notebook. She picks up a bundle of pens and a mug to go with the notebook. She pays for her purchases, leaving with a 10% discount coupon for her next visit. As she returns to her car, she starts to think about what color notebook she’d like for herself and whether to get her initials or her full name embossed.
Retail merchandising doesn’t just attract customers to your store. Its storytelling element compels them to buy and to return in the future. Customers don’t want shopping to be a dull experience, so make sure your retail merchandising game is on point.
Check out our full guide to retail merchandising here.
4. Optimize customer support across all channels
If you offer phone, email, and social media customer support options, you may think you’ve maxed out your available customer service. Though customers value omnichannel customer support options, the key is to make sure all your customer support options are seamless in their delivery of top-notch customer care.
Your first port of call is to make sure you have an FAQ clearly displayed and updated on your store’s website. After that, if you’re serious about delivering excellent support and delivering a great retail experience, you’ll need to invest in a customer relationship management tool.
A CRM solution will help you monitor all your customer interactions through all channels in one place, and it lets your team easily share information. Smaller businesses worried about the cost of another software tool shouldn’t worry. Many vendors, such as Insightly, offer free plans for smaller businesses.
5. Surprise customers with freebies
An oldie but a goodie, there’s nothing quite like delighting customers with a free gift.
Offering retailer promotions such as gifts with purchases offers many benefits. Not only does it help build brand loyalty, but it also adds value to your brand, helps promote other products, and makes the customer feel good.
For example, I use a specific online drugstore to buy items like shower gel, shampoo, and deodorant. I could just as easily pick up these items when I go to the supermarket, but this drugstore always sends out free perfume, makeup, or skincare testers with each order. I’ve even been converted into a regular buyer of some of these free products!
6. Invoke a sense of local community
Now more than ever, we’re being encouraged to shop small, shop local. One way to encourage this and to build a great retail experience is to involve your local community in your business.
As we know, businesses have had to pivot during COVID-19 to survive, but in doing so, they’ve opened up their doors to new experiences for both themselves and the customer. For example, a local cake store in my neighborhood now hosts a weekly play date session for toddlers, while their parents can enjoy a (socially-distanced) meetup over cake. Another local book store is holding language and painting classes.
The more you can give your business a face that is less corporate and more local, the better. This gives your brand the advantage of being not just a place to buy, but a place to connect.
7. Offer hands-on product experiences
Cosmetics store Lush does an excellent job of offering customers a very interactive experience with products before purchase. Not only do staff offer live product demonstrations, but customers are actively encouraged to pick up, smell, and even test products as they walk around the store.
Of course, if you’re running a small deli, you don’t want customers running off with your expensive cut of roast beef, but you can offer customers a make-your-own-snack station where they can choose their own pairing of bread, meat, and cheese.
Customers love the chance to interact with their products before they buy them, and hands-on product experiences also give you the chance to get to know your customers and build connections on an informal and comfortable level.
8. Give customers social media opportunities
There was a time where my Instagram feed was filled with the same image posted by different people. It was a shot of someone posed coolly outside a bright pink cake store adorned with masses of flowers.
Peggy Porshcen’s opening in the Belgravia neighborhood of London was never intended to be “just another cake shop." Its storefront and retailing environment were designed specifically to attract the attention of those who wanted to visit a store that could give them more than just a slice of cake — a great shot for the ‘gram, too.
Customers, especially those in the millennial, Generation Y, and Generation Z categories, value experiences that they can share across their social media platforms.
To give customers a memorable (read: social media) moment, you could do one of the following:
- Set up an “Instagram wall/mural” in your store for selfie-taking
- Add eye-catching branding around your retail store
- Incorporate catchy slogans/logos into your retail design
Keep customers coming back for more
Everyone wants to delight their customers and keep them coming back for more — especially right now. Improving the retail experience you offer is crucial in retaining customers and building brand value and loyalty. Don’t rest on your laurels — begin with implementing one of these retail experience strategies today.