Why In-Store Experiences Are the Key to Thriving in 2021
Most retailers haven’t used words like “thrive” very often in the past year, at least not with respect to their business. For the first time in recent memory, consumers were barred from most forms of in-person shopping by stay-at-home orders, while many stayed away from stores by choice. Concerns about health have defined every aspect of the past year, and retail was no exception.
There's reason to believe that 2021 could unfold as a different story for retailers, however.
The development and deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine presents more reason for optimism than perhaps any other. Fifty percent of respondents to our State of Consumer Behavior 2021 report said that they will visit brick-and-mortar retailers more frequently once a proven vaccine becomes available.
With the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine being administered, there's realistic hope that the coronavirus will be less of a constraint to retailers in 2021. Still, retailers are going to have to convince shoppers that their stores are worth the trip.
As retailers, you can combine in-store discounts with immersive experiences so that cash-strapped, stressed-out shoppers feel that they're getting more for their money than simply the products that they purchase.
Shoppers Need Good Reasons to Choose Your Store — Provide Them
The typical American shopper doesn’t have the luxury of burning gas for joyrides. They won’t spend portions of their finite time driving, finding a parking spot, and doing everything else that goes into in-store retail — not when they can save time and gas money by shopping online.
They won’t come to your store unless you give them reason to, as much of the consumer public is trying to make 10 cents do a dollar’s work.
Fortunately for retailers, consumers don’t simply look at shopping as a means of purchasing new shoes, Christmas decorations, or a new face covering. Twenty-six percent of consumers surveyed in our State of Consumer Behavior 2021 report said that they prefer brick-and-mortar retail to online shopping because it provides them an experience.
This experience, which retailers have the power to make phenomenal, crummy, or something in between, is the primary differentiator between in-person shopping and its digital counterpart.
How can a single mother working part-time hours or an unemployed father justify spending more than they need to in order to take the kids to your store? They can do so through the feelings they get from your employees tending to their every need, the in-store signs that occupy their time and attention with brand-specific stories and games, videos that prompt a welcome grin, or just the ability to be somewhere warm, communal and engaging for an hour or two.
If you give consumers the positive experience they seek — immersion through interactive signage (trivia, anyone?), brand messaging highlighting charitable causes, exclusive in-store discounts that tell the customer you appreciate them coming — our survey tells us that 90 percent of them will return again.
Know Your Built-In Advantages as a Retailer
With all the hubbub surrounding online shopping in 2020, you might have lost sight of what makes in-store retail special, and what makes your business in particular special. Even if your business sells products online, you have to admit that the in-store experience remains unrivaled in a few ways.
A customer can enter your store and leave with the product they seek in a matter of minutes. They can inspect the item firsthand, hold it in their own fingers, and make assessments about its quality that a two-sentence online description can’t provide. A third of respondents said that interacting directly with products is the greatest appeal of in-store shopping.
An in-store shopper can see other real, live humans (who like to shop, too!). They can experience all that your store's sensory delights have to offer.
These are real advantages that you hold as a retailer. However, such potential advantages can become detrimental if you don’t manage them to fit the tastes and demands of today's consumer.
The Customer Experience is as Much About Utility as it is About Aesthetics
You can have the prettiest shop on the block, but what good is it if a customer cannot execute the fundamental basics of retail?
What if a consumer cannot find a specific item in your store because you lack adequate signage or your staff is unavailable? They may dismiss your brand, both in its retail and online forms, as disorganized and unserious about customer service.
And what if a customer has to wait, and wait, and wait to check out in part because your location doesn't offer self-checkout options?
A customer will be unlikely to return to your store if you're not able to make the basics of their shopping experience — walk in, find items, check out — as efficient as possible. Sixty percent of respondents said they’ve stopped purchasing from a brand because of a single bad experience.
You have significant advantages as a brick-and-mortar retailer, but they’re only advantages if you make them so.
Make your stores visually appealing and engaging using interactive digital signage that fits within a broader design aesthetic. Also, make sure that you're providing customers safe, efficient passage through your store with features like self-checkout, curbside pickup, and adequate signage to indicate where items are located within your store.
In 2021, being on point with both will be critical to recapturing the business of segments of the consumer public who strayed in 2020.
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.
Related story: What Shoppers Expect From Brick-and-Mortar Retailers
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.