As a consumer, we have access to everything on demand, with a touch of our fingertips. Each channel plays an important part of the overall customer journey. Even though we can get same day delivery by Amazon or the luxury brand Net-A-Porter, studies show that 71% of respondents would prefer to shop in a physical Amazon store vs. online.
While I am passionate about the omni-channel experience and how brands can maintain consistency across channels, I will focus on how brands can best engage when customers choose to go in the store.
Retail is no different than the standard business conference, Bar Mitzvah, holiday party, or wedding. We have the desire to interact with friends, meet new people, and share those experiences with our groups of ‘friends’ and ‘networks’ on Facebook and LinkedIn. We are busy bees in a world of constant movement that crave the opportunity to relax and be at ease with an effortless experience.
Here are three trends in retail that are your next big tickets to success when it comes to in-person customer engagement.
Photo-Booth’s Create A Memorable Experience
Connect with your customers by providing them with a way to create memories with friends. At parties, there are photo booths for guests to have a memento from the event - select stores provide the same opportunity to share your experience across social media. Whether it is at Steve Madden with my dog, or being photo bombed by a group of girls at Uniqlo in NYC during the St. Patrick’s day parade, I will remember those experiences brands. Retail shops with less budget and space for bulky photo booths can create the same social atmosphere with displays curated specifically for selfies - free marketing at your service.
In-Store Collaborations Are A Win For All
Another great way that retail stores encourage social interaction is through events and collaborations. I recall a time at Desigual when they had a makeup artist, mini gift bags, drinks , a DJ, and a catwalk to showcase looks put together by the stylists. I am confident that Saturday afternoon was the most I ever spent on one visit to Desigual - and as a bonus had my makeup professionally done for the evening.
Not only does the store generate a lot of foot traffic by the signs outside, it keeps customers in the store longer to spend more money, and is a fantastic way to promote other brands, stylists, and artists. Customers who were acquired through word-of-mouth have a 37 percent higher retention rate. (McKinsey) Think about how you will develop your influencer marketing platform.
Neighborhood Events Support The Community
Finally, make it even more social by gathering other stores in the area. Alice & Olivia was kind to provide me with two complimentary tickets for a kick-off party for Meat Packing Open Market . It was a concert with food and drinks for a weekend of in-store events and discounts from retail stores and restaurants in the area. Who doesn’t love an opportunity to invite a friend and share a fun evening!
Smart Target Discounts Save Customer Time
When you attend industry conferences, you often have access to an app designed specifically to simplify the attendees experience and avoid carrying schedules and paper ads that end up in the trash. The same concept exists at different levels for in-store shopping experiences from basic to smart and targeted discounts. While clipping coupons from the Sunday paper is one of my favorite past times, it is delightful that technology is here to help us along the shopping journey. We will see even more with emerging technologies such as iBeacons and near-field communication.
Interactive Displays Educate Customers
The shift in e-commerce brands opening physical stores or ‘Clicks to Bricks’ brands are leading the path with the most efficient ways to integrate their back-office inventory systems, CRM, and more into the showroom like experience. As stores remove paper displays and tear down signs, they open valuable space for LCD monitors and iPads that complement the back-office systems and create an interactive method to engage shoppers. Stores can be creative with uses for those devices - for example, display information on the monitor based on interactive hangers (IH), show latest Pinterest pins of favorites for social proof, integrate with your customer support via web video or chat, or simply let them browse your website.
Mobile Checkout Completes Customer Experience
Have you ever wanted to purchase a product from a store only to find the line so long that you leave? You save a few bucks at the expense of a poor experience at the store. You may or may not return, to purchase the product or anytime, based on the loyalty of the particular brand. Apple and other brands that have mobile kiosks make it effortless to complete your purchase. For some established brands, integration to back-office systems may be an issue - expect that to change in the near future. The endless amounts of apps for devices do make it easy for new brands to start pure mobile - in this case, they have the advantage.
Food & Drink
A Restaurant or Cafe Creates A More Social Atmosphere
Most parties are centered around the food and drink. Obviously, food and drinks are a great way to encourage customers to stick around the store longer to shop. While restaurants in stores are not a new thing, they are popping up more frequently. It is a great way to lure people into the store. I recently chose a new morning stop for my bagel with cream cheese and jelly (the cafe at Urban Outfitters in Herald Square). I was pleasantly surprised by the tasty fresh raspberry jam vs. the type at the cafe just one block down Broadway. After two days of breakfast, it was time to try the lunch - only to find myself casually looking in the store when the line was too long. I held back from the photo booth - at least during that visit!
Everyone Loves Free Stuff
Opening a full restaurant or cafe is a big hit to the bottom line for most small shops. Even for large retail chains, you may only see them in the hotspot locations like 5th avenue in NYC or Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Shops that are small or have a tight budget can choose to provide free bites and drinks to guests on select days - just remember to be consistent with clients and days of the week. You bet customers will shop while they sip a free drink.
These were just a few examples of how you can engage customers through social, technology, and food. Think about how you can include them into your plans. Be creative, and most of all, be authentic and have fun along the way. In future posts, I will dig deeper into these topics - with technology being the primary focus.
I would love to hear your comments. As a customer, what are your favorite trends you see in retail stores?
The Pukka Panda