In a new world of retail comes a new set of responsibilities. According to Adobe’s Digital Trends Report, the single most exciting opportunity in 2020 is the customer experience. The Temkin Group found that companies earning $1 billion annually can expect to make an additional $700 million within three years by investing in the customer experience. Needless to say, customer experience is the new black.
Retailers need to take into consideration four key elements of the customer shopping experience when analyzing current methods and planning for new ventures: people, products, shopability, and sentiment.
Following the omnichannel retail explosion, people are still a retailer’s most important asset. Whether it’s informing consumers about promotions, finding products or helping at checkout, store associates provide the first and last impression a retailer has on shoppers. While e-commerce has taken a portion of today’s retail market, in-store traffic has held steady and remains the preferred method of shopping for Americans, according to the National Retail Federation.
A Mindtree study shows that 43 percent of shoppers who interact with a store associate are more likely to make a purchase. In the same study, 12 percent of respondents said they will return to a store where they had a positive experience with associates. From the initial greeting to product knowledge, all the way to the hospitality offered at checkout, associates have a lasting impact on store reputation and purchase decisions.
A retailer’s product assortment is impacted by a number of factors, from positioning and pricing to the socioeconomic status of its customers. Retailers of the past opted for a “jack-of-all-trades” method of product variety, but today’s consumers prefer retailers to be the “master” of niche categories. Stores with large product assortments have their place in the market, though ultimately consumers prefer to be presented with in-depth and extensive product variety within specific categories.
Best Buy, for example, excels at product variety within a single category. It has focused its business on electronics, and was voted by consumers as having the best variety out of 15 retailers, according to the Wiser Retail Benchmark. By contrast, Sears, Dollar Tree, and Costco have much less product variety.
Before formulating a product assortment strategy, retailers should consider what approach will drive consumers to buy.
Simply put, stressed out customers mean lower sales, reports the Kelley School of Business at the University of Indiana. Shopability characterizes the in-store conditions that make it easy for customers to find items for purchase. This can include shelves lacking products, messy aisles, rude or pushy associates, and long checkout lines. It's worth noting that the presence of too many brands on the shelf can be a turnoff for consumers. Things like having clear and bold promotional signage, category maps, helpful associates, and stocked shelves can ease the shopping experience.
Of course, every retailer wants to be the “go-to” place for their respective category. To win the hearts and wallets of consumers, retailers should consider their perceived value, pricing strategy, product quality, and the likelihood that a customer will return to shop again.
All of the aforementioned categories play into the overall sentiment consumers have toward a retailer. Best Buy is known for having the best product variety in electronics, while Target has top shopability due to its bold signage and clean aisles. CVS Pharmacy was ranked as one of the best retailers for associate knowledge, according to the Wiser Retail Benchmark. While a retailer can’t change a store location at the drop of a hat, they can ensure that a customer will return by offering rewards programs, store perks, and placing a high value on providing a positive customer experience.
From the moment a customer steps inside your store to the moment they take their bags and walk away, there are many make-or-break moments for retailers. In fact, Adobe reports that 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for great customer experience. In the end, people, products, shopability and sentiment are the key facets in the customer experience, and offer opportunities to build upon and improve operations, strategy and brand reputation.
Andy Ballard is the CEO at Wiser Solutions. Wiser collects and analyzes online and offline data with unmatched speed, scale, and accuracy for brands, retailers, and more.
Andy Ballard is the CEO at Wiser Solutions. Wiser collects and analyzes online and offline data with unmatched speed, scale, and accuracy for brands, retailers, and more. Follow @wiserdata. For the full downloadable Wiser Retail Benchmark, including crowdsourced results from our 2019 survey, visit our website.