How to create an incredible in-store retail experience

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How to create an incredible in-store retail experience

By Bobby Marhamat - 02/28/2020
Bobby Marhamat
Bobby Marhamat

Sixty-nine percent of consumers believe a good in-store experience is important, according to the “State of Consumer Behavior Report” by Raydiant. 

This means that unless retailers intend on serving the 31% of consumers who don’t care about the in-store experience, they cannot thrive in 2020 without great in-store experiences. In an era where consumers can buy everything from toothpaste to a car with the click of a button, retail stores must offer value beyond the products on the shelves. 

Low prices can get people in the door, but no one wants to win a race to the bottom on price. Razor-thin margins eventually come back to haunt the companies that create them.
By developing better in-store experiences, retailers can build a thriving culture as they delight all the customers who come through their doors. Only at brick-and-mortar locations can retailers leverage physical interactions to foster a sense of ownership and brand affinity. Today’s consumers prefer to buy from companies that take relationships beyond transactional. To build those relationships, retailers must start with experiences. 

Better in-store experiences in the wild
Plenty of retailers have shifted their focus to in-store experiences and found immediate success. Tiffany and Co., for example, opened its Style Studio in London in 2018, where customers could get their hands on more accessibly priced Tiffany products. 

The Style Studio became an instant hit. Not only could customers shop products they could afford, but they could also enjoy interactive experiences as they shopped. Vending machines with perfume and a jewelry engraving bar provided plenty of social media-worthy moments. 

The experiences of customers at the Style Studio reflect the expectations of consumers around the world. People understand that retail has changed, and they no longer visit stores for the same reasons as they did in the past. Today’s audiences want experiences that are educational, entertaining, and worth remembering. 

Not every store needs to drop thousands of dollars on custom equipment to make an impression, though. One Ikea store in the U.K found out that people shared a dream of sleeping in the store’s showroom, so Ikea invited 100 people to spend the night, no fancy equipment necessary.

For retailers looking for something a little more practical, small tweaks can make a big difference. If you don’t want to host a sleepover and can’t afford to drop $50,000 on custom equipment, try the following tips to give your customers a better in-store experience. 

1. Appeal to all the senses
Physical locations have opportunities to create multisensory experiences that e-commerce options can’t match. Instead of relying solely on ads or music, design experiences that get customers more involved. 

Let people try free samples or smell different fragrances. Take a few products out of their boxes to let customers get hands-on experience. Not only do deeper experiences make customers happy, but increased engagement with products can also lead to feelings of ownership, which in turn lead to more sales.

2. Turn the buyers into the makers.
People buy products all the time. How many get the chance to make something themselves, though? Offer personalization and customization services like engraving to turn a quick purchase into a more engaging experience.

If it makes sense for the product, invite people to attend a class or event. Teach people how to make jewelry, how to get the most from their new sound systems, or how to maintain their bicycles. People who get a say in the style of their purchases before they buy are far more likely to come back to the brand behind the experience.

3. Give regulars a reason to keep coming back 
The Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of results come from only 20% of causes, applies strongly to retail sales. Loyalists who make repeat purchases and who advocate for the brand are far more valuable than people who only buy something every once in a while. Businesses that incentivize in-store visits from loyalists can enjoy dramatic boosts in repeat sales.

Think about what drew the best customers to the brand in the first place. What does this store do better than anyone else? Why would someone who knows a lot about this industry prefer this brand? Leverage that information into service design and experiences that reinforce loyalist feelings — and encourage those loyalists to recruit their friends into the fold. 

4. Integrate the digital and the physical. 
Marketers love to talk about “omnichannel” funnels. In retail, omnichannel strategies account for the fact that customers never fully disconnect from the online world. Instead of fighting that inevitability, embrace it by incorporating digital experience boosters in physical stores. 

Possibilities for digital integration vary widely from one vertical to another. A makeup chain could get a location-specific filter for Snapchat and ask users to submit selfies into a contest. A motor sports outlet could use VR to let riders get a better feel for potential bikes. Digital signage throughout the store can immerse visitors in a completely blended experience, helping visits evolve beyond the transactional.

What will the in-store experiences of the future look like, and which brands will own the most successful ones? Retail won’t disappear any time soon. The best brands will use this opportunity to understand what customers want and design experiences that turn everyday visitors into diehard brand fanatics.

Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant Screen Signage.

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