Providing a great in-store experience for your customers is one of the best ways they can engage with your brand. This could include having an easy-to-navigate store layout, signage for wayfinding, the ability to interact with products, the opportunity to learn from demonstrations or educational events, and technology to help find products and checkout smoothly.
Yet a retailer shouldn’t simply implement a whole menu of new experiences simply because it can. The best experiences are informed by your brand, and experiences can become an extension of your brand in your brick-and-mortar. Here are a few ways to create in-store experiences informed by your brand that can drive sales — and the danger of ignoring your well-built brand when doing so.
Customer Experiences Extend From Your Brand
A retailer's brand is much more than its logo. It's created in the look and feel of its marketing materials, its tone of voice or communication style, its origin story, and the values it espouses. It also extends to the experiences customers have with its products, its website, and its brick-and-mortar locations. In fact, 80 percent of customers say that they value a brand’s experiences with the same weight as its products.
Businesses wanting to roll out more experiences for their customers should see it as an opportunity to really show customers what their brand is. As you plan for in-store experiences, start with what would organically grow from your brand first.
For example, if your brand is known for providing great customer service with an informal, friendly approach, focus on more interaction with store associates and add educational events or demonstrations — you wouldn't implement automated self-serve technology to reduce interactions. If your brand is known for being sleek, clean and technologically forward, you'd implement more tech and make your locations more minimalistic — you wouldn't clutter up your stores with products and analog interactions.
In-store experiences should be a natural extension of your already established brand. Misalignment can lead to customer confusion and distrust — like in the case of JCPenney.
Lessons From JCPenney
JCPenney opened its doors in 1902, and over the years built a solid brand that revolved around discounts and coupons that helped solidify its customer base. However, JCPenney began losing customers to competitors like Target, Walmart, and Nordstrom, and in 2011, it brought in a new CEO, Ron Johnson, to turn the company around.
As someone who helped create the Apple store experience and who had been head of merchandising for Target, Johnson seemed to have the perfect background to refresh JCPenney's brand and store experience. However, his plan didn't take into consideration the brand equity and customer base JCPenney had built, and he not only did away with long-loved coupons and discounts, he changed the logo, eliminated store legacy brands, and redesigned stores by changing the aisle layout, eliminating checkout counters and adding in "specialty shops" within the stores themselves, among other changes. The new in-store experiences might have aligned with Apple's brand, but not with JCPenney's brand.
The impact was massive. Long-time customers said they no longer recognized the store they had shopped in for many years, and too much misalignment made them go elsewhere. Sales fell 28 percent in just the fourth quarter of 2012 alone, losing the retailer $427 million. JCPenney’s share price dropped 50 percent in 2012. Only a year into the experiment, Johnson was asked to leave, and the previous CEO returned the brand back to the way it had been.
Customer Experiences Drive Revenue
Creating great in-store experiences will not only result in happy, engaged customers, it will result in sales, too. Again and again, studies find that great experiences drive revenue. Seventy-three percent of consumers say that their experience is key in their decision to purchase a product. Notably, 65 percent of U.S. consumers “find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.” Eighty-six percent of consumers say that they would be willing to pay upwards of 25 percent more for products if they could get a better customer experience.
But why would a customer be more inclined to spend their money with you? They're not necessarily giving you a tip for the experience you provide. Customers return to brands when they feel an emotional or psychological connection to a brand, or when they're made to feel part of a community. They can find that connection through the experiences you provide.
Brand + Experiences = Future Growth
As you begin developing your strategy to create new and unique customer experiences, or if you want to expand upon the experiences you already offer, always use your brand as a foundation for what you want to create. Creating great experiences also isn’t just about giving your customers a fun time when out shopping — you can use those experiences to connect with them and turn them into loyal customers as well.
Read more about how to create great in-store experiences in The Experience-Driven Business.
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-store 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.