Everything You Need to Know About In-Location Experience Management
We’re now well into 2021, and we can say with certainty that retail’s rebound is legitimate. By continuing to invest heavily in in-location experiences, retailers have bounced back admirably from unprecedented adversity.
As of early June, the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts retail sales to continue growing between 10.5 percent and 13.5 percent throughout the remainder of 2021. Statistical trends suggest a steady, sustained recovery for retail.
These encouraging revelations reflect what our State of Consumer Behavior 2021 Report told us about consumer sentiment. We knew that, even with pandemic-related phobias considered, 46 percent of consumers still preferred shopping in person.
We also knew that retail organizations were doubling down on in-location experiences, primed for consumers to flock back to their stores. Retailers will need to continue differentiating their in-store experience from online ones to maintain momentum.
As more and more consumers return to stores, creating distinct brand appeal will become increasingly important. Deploying a diverse selection of in-location experiences is a key launching point for all retailers.
What Are In-Location Experiences?
In-location experiences are any experience you deliver to consumers who visit your physical locations. A customer’s visit to your store is colored by a collection of several in-location experiences. You want to make sure that your in-location experiences are:
- appealing to as many customers as possible; and
Consider how innovative retail brands have attracted and retained customers through well-conceived in-location experiences.
Retailers That Are Dominating the In-Location Experience Game
When it comes to in-location experiences, some retailers are willing to take risks and reap corresponding rewards. They’re not afraid to dive into uncharted waters as they recognize that the customer of today has new and evolving tastes.
Bold retailers are embracing the following classes of in-location experience to impressive results — rising sales, heightened brand awareness, and improved standing in the retail pecking order.
Who is Dominating Revenue-Focused Experiences?
Revenue-focused experiences have a singular goal: Compel customers to buy.
You might say “easier said than done.” Nonsense. Several brands have proven that you can drive sales by integrating targeted ads, brand loyalty incentives, and other revenue-drivers into your in-location experiences.
Few brands have the resources to be daring like Walmart. It’s leading the way for revenue-focused experiences by connecting brands with customers at the point of sale. Walmart Media Group has:
- tested dynamic ads on in-store monitors;
- deployed targeted ads at self-checkout counters;
- embraced cutting-edge API for its advertising partners; and
- shown a willingness to drive its own and its partners’ revenues through targeted and innovative advertising approaches.
There’s a delicate balance with targeted advertising and promotion, however. You may gauge your customers’ tolerance for targeting. Urban Outfitters had to walk back a gender-specific homepage campaign because consumers simply weren’t comfortable with this sort of targeting.
In the grand scheme, targeting customers to drive revenue is a game-changer (in a positive sense). Just be cognizant of customers’ wariness of perceived privacy violations and related sensitivities as you mock up your in-location experiences.
Who is Dominating Informational Experiences?
Consumers come into your store for a reason. Generally, they’re looking to buy something. If they buy other goods along the way, that’s great. But you must clearly direct them to goods and services as a primary measure. How you direct and inform your customers constitutes your informational experiences.
Here’s a general principle to follow: The more you can tell the customer about product location, specifications, promotions, and other relevant information, the better. A key caveat: you want to make the informational experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Consumers have proven comfortable with interactive touchscreens. Over the years, many retail brands have blended informational with experiential.
Bloomingdale’s placed interactive video screens in its street-facing windows in Manhattan, allowing consumers to try on Ralph Lauren clothing without stepping foot inside. Jaguar launched in-store virtual reality (VR) screens so that customers could view customized vehicle models before purchase.
Whether through interactive store maps or more outside-the-box experiences like those from Jaguar and Bloomingdale’s, any retailer that provides the customer valuable information through technology is dominating the game of informational experiences.
Who is Dominating Immersive Experiences?
Immersive experiences are those meant specifically to create a memory. What will consumers remember most about their experience in your store? The actual purchasing of a product, or something like Refinery29’s 29Rooms Funhouse?
Though Refinery29 isn't a traditional retail organization, its approach to memory-making through immersion can be emulated. Canada Goose also understands the impact of consumer immersion, literally immersing shoppers in a cold room to show off the heat-retaining powers of its winter coats.
Immersive experiences must be unique to your brand. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
Who is Dominating Checkout Experiences?
You can’t talk about checkout experiences without discussing self-checkout. Scratch that — without discussing efficient, effortless self-checkout.
Even pre-COVID, shipments of self-checkout terminals were increasing by as much as 50 percent year-over-year. Now, post-COVID, consumers won't negotiate when it comes to health and convenience.
You simply have to offer self-checkout kiosks within your range of buying options. Retailers like Wegmans and Costco have bought into (pun intended) self-checkout. So has Walmart, Home Depot, and countless other market-leading retailers.
Our State of Self-Service Checkouts 2021 Report found that 85 percent of consumers believe self-checkout is generally faster than employee-assisted checkout. It shouldn’t shock you to read that customers care deeply about their precious time, and will judge your brand harshly based on slow checkout experiences.
Virtually every major retailer is now offering some form of self-checkout. You should be too.
You can view the total in-location consumer experience as a fork, with each individual experience — sensory immersion, identification and observation of products, customer service, promotional interactions, and checkout — being prongs on the fork.
Every point is critical to the fork’s function, just as every individual consumer experience contributes to the perception of your brand. Follow the lead of brands that are providing memorable, innovative in-location experiences. Put your brand’s unique twist on proven strategies like targeted advertisements, self-checkout, and standout immersive experiences.
By investing in these micro-experiences, you’ll breed loyal customers who return to your stores for an experience that's rewarding both in parts and as a whole.
Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant, a digital signage provider that helps businesses turn their TVs into interactive signs that drive sales, improve the in-location experience, and reinforce brand messaging.
Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant Screen Signage, a digital signage provider that helps businesses turn their TVs into interactive signs that drive sales, improve the in-store experience, and reinforce brand messaging. Prior to joining Raydiant, Bobby served as the COO of Revel Systems where he worked on the front lines with over 25,000 brick and mortar retailers. Bobby has held leadership positions including CEO, CRO, and VP of Sales at companies such as Highfive, Limos.com, EVO2, Verizon Wireless, LookSmart, ServerPlex Networks, and Sprint/Nextel. When Bobby's not spending his time thinking about the future of brick and mortar retail, you can find him traveling, reading, or tending to his vegetable garden.