Are you ready to update your customer shopping experience? Here’s how you can use modern retail technologies to differentiate your brand.
With the growing amount of competition on the retail landscape—thanks largely to the number of customers who are shopping online instead of at brick-and-mortar retailers—it is no longer enough for your store to merely sell quality products and services.
On the contrary, today the most successful retailers out there are also engaging their customers on intellectual and emotional levels.
Said another way, emphasizing a unique and satisfying customer experience is one of the best ways that brick-and-mortar retail stores can continue to draw shoppers who might otherwise opt to shop online.
Ask yourself this: why do so many people buy coffee at Starbucks instead of just buying Starbucks-brand coffee grounds at the grocery store?
Opting to visit a Starbucks location and order a drink there is not only less convenient and more time-consuming than brewing coffee at home, but it is also markedly more expensive.
The catch, though, is that Starbucks, instead of trying to compete with home-brewed coffee on cost (not a feasible option) have focused instead on creating a stellar and customized customer experience. From friendly and personal baristas to a comfortable store atmosphere established by familiar aesthetics and good music, Starbucks’ success is as much about the customer experience as it is about the product.
The Elements of a Superior Customer Experience
Bottom line, it’s the new reality in retail that customers—particularly the millennial generation—expect and look forward to a personalized customer experience.
As such, in order to succeed in today’s competitive retail landscape, you need to differentiate your brand and provide a customer experience that is notably different (and markedly more personal and memorable) than what your competitors have to offer.
Consider the three points below when trying to come up with a superior customer experience at your store.
- Value: Your ultimate goal should be to create actual value through your customer experience, because this will encourage shoppers to choose your store over competitors, online alternatives, etc.
Maybe your store just has a more enjoyable shopping atmosphere; maybe you have stronger customer service, and that makes it easier for shoppers to find the clothes they love in the perfect sizes. Creating value in your customer experience will boost shopper loyalty and keep people coming back to your store.
- Personalization: Personalization is a major reason why there is such a push for Big Data in customer-serving business—and not just in retail, either. Collecting data can help you to provide a more personal, singular shopping experience for your customers. For instance, today’s shopper appreciates an omnichannel (or multi-channel) shopping experience.
By collecting data about how your shoppers interact with your brand outside of the store (for instance, are they more likely to take advantage of email, text, or direct mail coupon?), you can put together personalized multi-channel and promotional campaigns that will pique your customers’ interest and make them feel more valued.
- Customer Service: Strong customer service can truly make or break your brand. In fact, a recent study conducted by Customer Champions suggested that customer service is perhaps the “key battleground” for retailers competing with one another for business.
By providing personal, helpful, vigilant, and friendly customer service, retailers can not only increase the chances of a shopper actually making a purchase, but also of that shopper having the kind of positive experience that brings them back in the future.
How to Implement the Three Tenets of Quality Customer Experience in Your Store
So how do the three points listed above—value, personalization, and customer service—actually work in practice? How can you implement these three tenets in order to provide the kind of unique and dynamic shopping experience that your customers will appreciate and remember?
Here are three examples of ways apparel retailers can differentiate their brand’s customer experience, just by focusing on the fitting room!
Value: Provide a virtual mirror as an alternative to the usual fitting room experience.
Some shoppers simply don’t like fitting rooms, and feel self-conscious about removing their clothes or trying on apparel in a closed-door space that still feels pretty public. Others just don’t always have time to spend in the fitting room. A virtual mirror can help an indecisive shopper narrow down a dozen potential items to a handful that actually make it to the fitting room. In any case, having a virtual mirror that allows your shoppers to picture themselves in your store’s clothes without actually having to undress can distinguish your store from other retailers and can add value to the shopping experience that customers can’t find elsewhere.
Personalization: Offer your customers a chance to sign up for your loyalty program while they are actually trying on clothes. As we have explained in a previous blog post, the point of sale is where most stores try to encourage customers to sign up for their loyalty programs, but it can be more effective to offer the opportunity in the fitting room. Once customers have made up their mind about what they want to purchase, they are usually singularly focused on completing the transaction and exiting the store.
However, in the fitting room, they may feel like they have more time to spare, and will be more receptive as a result. In addition, offering personalized discounts in the fitting room can convince shoppers that they can afford to purchase more try-on items, and can give you an opportunity to get customer insights, learn more about your shoppers, and provide better-personalized offers in the future. (iBeacon technology can also help with personalization.)
Membership in US retail loyalty programs has grown to more than 1 billion, up from less than half that figure in 2006. As their experience with such programs deepens, consumers have begun to expect more personalized offers and services—not just blanket discounts—in return for their participation. –eMarketer.com
Customer Experience: Incorporate call buttons into your fitting rooms, and train your customer service staff to respond to them! Call buttons can not only record customer data that will help you to improve the overall shopping experience at your store, but they also allow your customers to get help without ever exiting the fitting room—whether they need a different size of a specific garment, or have decided they want to try on a piece of apparel they originally passed by out in the store. Click here to learn more about call button technology!
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Ultimately, there are many tweaks that you can make to your store to provide a more unique and valuable customer shopping experience. Recent technological trends are especially helpful in improving the overall customer experience, from the aforementioned virtual mirrors and changing room call buttons to social media buttons that you can use to track customer “likes” on different lines and articles of clothing.
Walgreens is even using augmented reality as a new away to attract brick-and-mortar customers. Customers at Walgreens stores can pick up a special tablet when they enter the store, and can then hold it up to aisles and shelves to see—on the tablet screen—which items are currently on sale.
Of course, not every technological trend is the right fit with every store, and you will have to decide which ideas are or are not a good fit for your business. Ultimately, your goal should be to make your store the Starbucks of retail: the store that customers choose to shop at because of experience and atmosphere, even if there are admittedly cheaper and more convenient ways to buy similar products.
One way you can decide which technologies will work for you is to analyze your current performance. Download our retail analytics eBook to learn more about how to use analytics to grow your business.