3 Experiences That Will Get (and Keep) Customers In-Store
Today's retail landscape begs for more than just affordably priced products and lightening-fast shipping. The modern customer requires more in-depth forethought from brands to win his or her business. For brick-and-mortar retailers especially, the battle to stay competitive with their digital counterparts comes along with the demand to deliver or exceed customer expectations — i.e., to offer unique and valuable customer experiences. Unsurprisingly, driving in-store traffic and sales is one of the biggest challenges facing brick-and-mortar retailers today. Luckily, they're not without options. Here are three concepts physical retailers can implement to keep foot traffic flowing.
1. A Store Within a Store:
While the store-within-a-store concept is nothing new in the world of department stores, it remains a massive opportunity for two brands to complement and cross-sell without much risk and with a much smaller footprint — casting a wider net on the sales opportunity, diversifying their product offerings and offering a unique customer experience, while still reaping the benefit of having a prominent presence.
The store-within-a-store concept has permeated many markets over the years, going far beyond the likes of Nordstrom and Dillard’s. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts inside gas station convenience stores, SportClips inside Wal-Mart, etc. Customers of these establishments go for a specific reason, but leave with an enhanced experience by being able to interact with a complementary brand. What’s more, the “store within a store” may be just what both floundering or fledgling brands need to boost relevancy. Sephora inside of J.C Penney, and Spectacles or Warby Parker pop-ups inside of heavily trafficked malls are two examples.
If executed correctly, a store-within-a-store is tremendously valuable to both brands. It enhances brands by association with other trusted brands, and allows both brands to reach and interact with more consumers without a huge capital investment. However, if executed poorly, both brands find themselves in the thick of a missed opportunity. Anyone remember the “The Shops at Target?” Right, so in order to mitigate the miss, both brands should do their homework to understand each other. As the “store within,” research how the umbrella retailer’s customers behave and what their personas are so you can build new customer relationships through an experience that will be meaningful, without compromising your brand. Every situation will be different, but aim to define your presence without blending in and becoming invisible or, on the opposite extreme, clashing. As the umbrella brand, an obvious tip is to ensure the “store within” is complementary and not a detractor.
2. Trade-In Programs
Not to be confused with a return policy, trade-in programs are insanely valuable to brands. They boost incremental in-store traffic, increase consumer spending and heighten customer loyalty. While they're more commonly known (and wildly successful) in the consumer electronic space, brick-and-mortar retailers in the apparel retail industry are reaping the benefit of enacting trade-in programs. We’re already seeing spurts of trade-in greatness within retail: Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, and Gymstore.com are pioneering the buy-sell-trade space for clothing, accessories and sporting equipment. Truthfully, anything that has value widely in the secondary market is a candidate for trade-in.
In order for a trade-in program to be successful, once again the experience is key. Retailers need to keep transparency as the vanguard of all of their promotions and programs — no one wants to be bait-and-switched with a promoted high value, only to realize their item doesn't qualify. Further, it would behoove brands to be explicitly clear about how they evaluate an item so consumer expectations can be managed. Store associates also should be considered in trade-in program development, as they, too, want to deliver a great experience to their customers, or at the very least avoid headaches and poor reviews. As such, the program has to work for the associates as well, so they have it top of mind and talk it up with shoppers as a valuable sales closing tool. If a program is difficult, the interface is slow to use, or evaluation criteria is highly subjective resulting in downgrades and variances on the back end, associates won’t be inclined to use it — and may even sabotage the program. Keep the experience clean, simple and objective. Customers and associates alike will be happy with the results, and the sales will prove it.
3. Economize the Gift Card
Gift cards: every person’s back-up gift, and every brand’s best friend. As of 2015, nearly 93 percent of American consumers reported to have either given or sent a gift card. On average, customers shopping with gift cards spend nearly 40 percent more than their gift card threshold. Needless to say, gift cards are a valuable part of brands’ overall sales strategies — and department stores should take special note, as they're the industry leader for gift card sales.
Being that gift cards are no longer in and of themselves a revolutionary change to retail, how can retailers continue to innovate the gift card economy and capture more in-store traffic? Innovate the gift card tangibility, and offer incentives for shoppers who redeem their cards in-store. The ability to electronically gift to a recipient instantly meets customers where they are and enables brands to deliver on their demands. Today, 56 percent of consumers would like to keep gift cards stored on their phone, as it makes the card easily accessible and decreases the chances of it being lost or forever unused.
Though e-gift cards are no longer new, they immediately bring relevancy to any brand to implement the offering.
So whether it’s a pop-up shop, trade-in program or an innovative gift card strategy, at the end of the day, brick-and-mortar retailers should have their eyes on one prize: deliver to customers a unique, valuable and convenient experience that will keep them coming back (in-store) for more.
Kimberly Henning is the vice president of business development and marketing at NextWorth Solutions, a provider of in-store and online trade-in platforms.