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What, exactly, do today’s shoppers want from an in-store experience? The answer is clearer than you might think.
When it comes to retail, beauty is in the eye of the consumer. Shoppers ultimately dictate which retailers are hip and profitable, and which decay into costly dinosaurs.
As a retailer, you must discern between fads and sustainable trends to remain relevant. Probing consumers about their likes and dislikes is the only way to do this with consistency. And yet, revenue sheets and voluntary customer surveys only tell you so much.
Each year, we aim to lend brick-and-mortar practitioners a helping hand with our State of Consumer Behavior 2022 report, which provides direct insights into customers’ prevailing likes, dislikes, and motivations. Without fail, these consumers tell us that the in-store experience has massive influence over where they choose to shop — with each report, though, we find new actionable discoveries that those in brick and mortar can use.
The shopper of 2022 still values retail’s greatest hits, like value, excitement, and convenience. However, these shoppers are hungrier for experiential retail than they’ve ever been, with 77% of respondents calling in-store experiences “important” or “very important” to their shopping decisions.
The pressing question for retailers is this: What, exactly, do today’s shoppers want from an in-store experience? The answer is clearer than you might think.
Shoppers want selection
When we asked shoppers what they most want from an in-store experience, the largest contingent — 31.9% of respondents — said they most value product selection and variety.
It’s not a profound revelation to state that brick and mortar is now competing with e-commerce. Despite the distinct advantages that brick-and-mortar organizations have over digital competitors, insufficient product variety will be a non-starter for most customers. Even if your in-store experience stands apart from the rest, excess space on your shelves, clothing racks, store rooms, or menus will mitigate your advantages.
And yet, brick and mortar continues to suffer inventory shortages and inconsistencies, with even essentials like food in short supply. Retailers must be more in tune than ever to what customers are buying, and which product categories may be worth axing. By ensuring high supply and variety in the product categories that sustain your business, you may decrease the perception of scarcity that drives consumers to e-commerce alternatives.
Shoppers want high-quality customer service
The second item on consumers’ wish list — or demand list, depending on who’s pushing the cart — is customer service. The data revealed 26.4% of respondents said the quality of customer service most determines whether an in-store experience is positive or negative.
Chick-fil-A is a perennial contender to lead the American Customer Satisfaction Index, regularly taking first place. The standard bearer for customer service in fast-casual dining, Chick-fil-A has selectively chosen franchisees that are dedicated to customer service. Its employees are known for competence, friendliness, accessibility, and attentiveness to customers’ needs and wishes. From the top-down, Chick-fil-A’s identity is as much about customer service as it is chicken.
If your organization isn’t prioritizing customer service, rather settling for average employee performance, then you’re missing the mark. We know that more than a quarter of consumers will judge your brand most by your customer service — more than your products, convenience, or any other feature of your store.
In addition to coaching your employees on the essential nature of a smile and a helping hand, consider investing in cost-efficient technologies that improve customer service. A self-checkout kiosk is, in and of itself, a conduit of customer service. The same is true of digital displays that help explain a product or direct a shopper to certain items they’re seeking.
When shoppers perceive your brand as customer-friendly, they see a trip to your stores as a spirit-lifting, headache-free experience. This perception is invaluable.
Shoppers want convenience
One trend that was accelerated by the pandemic, and is highly unlikely to abate, is greater convenience in brick and mortar as 23.8% of respondents are more likely to shop at a brick-and-mortar location that they view as convenient than one that is not.
This means that, even if your in-store experience is slightly more engaging than a competitor’s, inconvenience — when searching for products, checking out, or otherwise — may drive the shopper into your competition’s arms. Their curbside-fulfilling, self-checkout-offering arms.
Meet customers where they’re comfortable. If you can, offer as many checkout and fulfillment options as possible. If customers like your brand, then they want to spend money with you as often as possible. We know that omnichannel shopping has become routine for the typical consumer. Give the customer who wants to scan their items, is having a bad hair day, or is sweaty after their workout multiple ways to buy — whether through self-checkout, curbside fulfillment, or local shipping.
If you can afford it, give customers no reason to shop elsewhere.
Conclusion: Shoppers make the rules
When historians locate the tablet containing the 10 commandments of retail, “Thine customer is always right” will be atop the list. While savvy retailers can sense trends shifting, it is the customer that dictates which trends prevail — today, tomorrow, in ten years, and beyond.
By asking customers what they want and value, we hope to clarify your mission for the coming year, at least. Customers today demand product variety (within your vertical), the best in customer service (including modern twists like self-checkout kiosks and informative digital signage), and convenience. We also know that, for 31.5% of shoppers, competitive prices are essential.
These insights serve as a manual for all brick-and-mortar practitioners. In this case, sticking to the instructions is highly advisable.
Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant Screen Signage, a digital signage provider that helps businesses turn their TVs into interactive signs that drive sales, improve the in-store experience, and reinforce brand messaging.
RetailCustomerExperience.com is a Web portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate on experience, rather than on price. It is founded on the understanding that retail today is fundamentally different than any other time in its history, and staying competitive requires a new, holistic understanding of customers and how they want to shop.
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