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5 Ways to Give Consumers a Worthy In-Store Experience

Graham Soult, Retail analyst and Founder, CannyInsights.com

Many retail industry watchers have heralded the death of the high street at the hands of a booming online retail industry. But, while many well-known brands have pulled away or closed their doors, it’s certainly not one-way traffic.  In fact, many retailers that started out online are now investing in bricks and mortar stores to engage with customers in new ways. Fashion brand Bonobos and online marketplace Etsy are two prime examples of this.

The real change we’re seeing is that the shop is no longer just a place for retail transactions. We’re moving away from a time where a retailer could simply display their products on racks or shelves and expect shoppers to come flooding in. Why would I fight the high street crowds when I could stay at home and have a product delivered to my door with minimal effort?

This is the age of the experiential shop. Shoppers need a reason to venture outside, and retailers need to deliver an in-store experience that will woo them out of their homes. Apple excels at this. Its shops tend to be among the most crowded on the high street, largely because customers can go play with the latest iPhone, Mac, or HomePod. They can have an army of well-informed experts at their fingertips to answer their questions or fix their devices.

Or how about Dyson, which opened a physical location in Central London that it doesn’t even call a store? Dyson Demo, as its shop is called, is a clever way for Dyson to promote itself in a high-traffic location while giving people a place to live and breathe its brand and products. Just like in Apple’s stores, their staff leave customers alone to browse and interact with products with zero sense of commitment, as they can online. Crucially, sales are secondary to the experience. It’s less important that customers buy something on the spot than it is to delight them into becoming a brand affiliate.

So, investment in experience needs to be a priority for retailers in 2018.  How should they invest and what tactics will work best? Here are my tips on how to deliver an enviable and compelling in-store experience:

  • Think about what you can offer in a physical space that your customers can’t get online. In today’s online and mobile-first world, it takes a value-adding experience to get people out of their homes and into your shop.
  • Remember the importance of a human touch. Virtual shop assistants and VR headsets might be cool, but human interaction is still a key reason we go to stores.
  • Think social! Brands such as Missguided are very much geared towards encouraging customers to interact with the space. Its stores include a place for people to take and share selfies of themselves trying on clothes, which has the added bonus of putting its products on display across social platforms.
  • Take cues from the restaurant industry. The link may not seem obvious, but leading chefs have realised that providing a shareworthy and Instagram-able experience is as important as the food they serve if they want to build their brand. In the same way, stores need to deliver an experience that gets people excited and want to share online.
  • Make sure your in-store technology enhances the shopping experience. Shorter queue times, faster payments, the ability to try out goods before purchase – these are all things consumers want. On the other hand, a clunky digital payments process or unnecessary virtual reality experience may just complicate things and turn people off.

The high street is in a transition period and will continue to evolve, but the shop isn’t going anywhere. That said, retailers that think they can get away with the traditional shop experience will continue learning the hard way that customers expect more, especially when the competition beats them to it. It’s time to up their game and offer shoppers an experience that will excite them and keep them coming back for more.

Want to read more about the trends shaping the retail industry today and tomorrow? You can read Oracle’s full report here.

 

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