In a time when people can now easily (and perhaps more cheaply) shop for what they need and want online, why are they still trooping to brick-and-mortar stores to make the purchase? A lot of experts believe that a lot of it has to do with the experience.
For many consumers, the entire process of going to a store – dressing up, taking the trip, entering the shop and being greeted by the crew, browsing through the aisles and touching or trying out the merchandise, lining up at the counter, going home to unpack the package and so on – constitutes an enjoyable, sometimes inconvenient but mostly comfortingly familiar practice. It’s almost like a ritual. It’s a multi-sensory experience. You can buy that bag online, but you opt to purchase it from the shop simply because you want to.
That is why now, more than ever, shopkeepers need to provide a pleasant, if not pleasurable, retail experience for their customers. Crafting a superior shopping experience is not optional anymore; in the face of the highly competitive online marketplace, it’s an act of survival for many brick-and-mortar stores.
The right business strategy
According to supply chain consultancy firm Bis-Henderson, you can only deliver the best possible customer experience if the approaches you take are part of an all-encompassing business strategy. That personalised email you send, or those signature refreshments you offer to your clients, only make sense if they’re anchored to your business objectives. Just like the basic supply route which covers every single step from raw materials to finished product to delivery, if something goes wrong with one of the components, the end result will suffer. Everything must be connected. Clarify your strategy first, and use it to guide your next steps.
Another important factor in delivering superior customer experience is effective change management. Driven by dynamic technologies, customer needs and expectations can shift rapidly. Your business must be prepared for those rapid changes, or ideally, be able to predict it. Take a proactive approach to getting to know your customers better. There is now a wide variety of tools and solutions for you to collect customer data and monitor their preferences and expectations. Use the information you have to set up personalised and targeted campaigns that will make an impact on your relationships with your customers.
It’s also critical to consider the entire process as a cycle, and not a linear procedure. Your customer experience strategy does not stop when the buyer finally pays for the merchandise. If you want to strengthen your brand, your instinct should be to follow up and continue nurturing that relationship. It can be by getting feedback and taking action based on the response. It can be formulating a rewards or membership program for your recurring buyers. The aim is to build not just a customer base, but a community of loyal supporters who will drive the longevity of your business.
A market-leading study once defined the core attributes of a superior customer experience as follows: product quality and accessibility, fast and friendly support, appealing product presentation, and personal and community connection.
Does your retail shop offer this basic set of characteristics, and if not, how do you plan to achieve it?