Why Retailers Still Need to Focus on Improving the In-Store Experience
Consumers have high expectations. They expect a personalized, enjoyable shopping experience across all channels at all times. This has put a lot of pressure on retailers. Even though e-commerce continues to flex its muscles, a recent study showed that 97 percent of consumers still find a need to visit stores. But have retailers over-rotated to e-commerce and let the in-store experience fall by the wayside?
Despite clear differences in expectations among shoppers of different generations, 44 percent of retailers have made no progress in tailoring the in-store shopping experience, and consumers are noticing. More than half of consumers feel the retail environment has not become more inviting, and nearly 20 percent feel it has actually become less inviting over the past five years.
And what about that in-store employee interaction that most retailers thrive for? It turns out that 46 percent of consumers agree that employee interaction would improve their in-store shopping experience, with 28 percent noting they would feel more annoyed. However, if you look a bit deeper, this is more of a generational issue. Generation Z indicated they would be more annoyed with increased employee interaction, while millennials would welcome the engagement.
So, what does make a good in-store experience? Let’s explore.
The Making of a Good Customer Experience
Even with conflicting viewpoints on how to improve the in-store experience, there are things retailers can do to improve the shopping experience. As we see from these survey results, front-line employees have a significant impact on whether customers have a positive or negative in-store experience, making your store employees one of your most valuable assets.
For retailers, training employees to have a customer-first mind-set is critical. They should be aware of how different generational cohorts might value these interactions. Gen Z are true digital natives who know how to search and find online information quickly. There's no reason to believe this behavior changes when they shop in-store, which is why they may not value this associate interaction — except for when they truly need it.
Millennials, who value this interaction most, may have busier schedules between their careers and children. When they’re shopping, speed may be of the essence, and relying on a helpful associate can improve their overall experience.
Training employees properly and providing them the tools they need, such as the ability to order products on the sales floor, to assist the customer is critical for a positive in-store experience.
Streamline the Experience
Seventy percent of consumers believe the most appealing retail stores have features like self-checkout kiosks, that simplify and streamline the overall shopping and checkout experience. When it comes to providing consumers with a streamlined and friendly in-store experience, buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) can play a significant role for the 18 percent of consumers who use the service, according to eMarketer.
BOPIS is a service that connects the online to the in-store environment, and most often requires a store associate’s assistance. This interaction should be expected and welcomed by the customer, allowing your brand to provide a personal, one-to-one experience to the consumer. To put the icing on the BOPIS cake, according to another survey, 37 percent of consumers using BOPIS make an additional unplanned purchase while in-store. Being able to provide a good customer experience while generating incremental sales is a win-win.
Surprisingly, as consumers become more technology savvy, it may be the simple things that ultimately win the retail customer experience. Instead of handing out virtual reality headsets to shoppers, retailers should first focus on improving the everyday experience for customers. Happy customers equal repeat customers.
Greg Zakowicz is senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle NetSuite, a cloud-based business management software provider.
Related story: Millennials DO Shop in Stores
Greg Zakowicz is a veteran marketer and the Director of Content at Omnisend. With 15-plus years of experience in email, mobile, and social media marketing, he’s helped over 100 DTC companies around the world, including numerous from the Internet Retailer Top 1000, maximize sales through their email marketing programs. Zakowicz is a frequent speaker at ecommerce events, often shares his ecommerce insights across various industry media outlets, has been retained as an ecommerce expert witness for trial, and is the host of Omnisend’s Cart Insiders Podcast.