Shoppers today have more choices than ever. “Experience” has become a buzzword for the kind of interactive participation that encourages consumers to visit bricks-and-mortar stores.
But what makes for a good retail experience? And how important is it, really?
As it turns out, a powerful experience is very important to shoppers, according to JLL research. Brands that scored higher in categories related to experience outperformed their rivals in revenue growth, with the exception of mass merchandisers and off-price retailers.
Here are six ways that stores can ensure they’re best catering for shopper needs:
Consumers prefer store layouts that make it simple and easy to find products. Sports apparel retailer Under Armour, for example, uses interactive LED displays and hands-on activities to connect intimately with its shoppers, such as a wearables bar where customers can try out various fitness devices.
Meanwhile, Lowe’s recognizes that big-box home improvement stores are often labyrinths, and strategically places in-store associates to help wandering shoppers locate items.
2. Human touch
Shoppers want high-quality interactions with knowledgeable associates who treat them equally regardless of who they are or how much they spend.
Grocery store Trader Joe’s, for instance, is known for enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who go out of their way to be helpful, share thoughts on customers’ food purchases and suggest other products they may enjoy. And at beauty product purveyor Lush, beauty gurus specialize in understanding what individual shoppers are looking for to guide the perfect purchase, whether it’s shampoo made with fair-trade honey or a lavender-scented bath bomb.
3. Meaningful brand connections
Consumers look for brands aligned with their own beliefs and ideals. Social-justice minded shoppers connect with the TOMS brand, for example, because they know that every purchase helps fund a pair of shoes or another product for a person in need.
Meanwhile, consumer co-op REI promotes environmental awareness and empowers shoppers to connect with the outdoors as part of a community of outdoor enthusiasts
4. Immersive experience
Shoppers love stores with a distinct look and feel, including appealing scents and sounds.
Shinola stores, for example, engage all of the senses immediately with the scents of cigar and mahogany, smooth jazz in the background and impeccable displays of vintage-inspired products. Women’s clothing retailer & Other Stories has stores that make customers feel like they’re shopping in an art museum.
5. Accessible shopping
Few retailers are excelling at providing a seamless, personalized shopping experience across their store, mobile and web platforms, according to JLL’s research. Feedback from shoppers highlighted there is room for improvement in the amount of time it takes to checkout, how easy it is to find products and how often mobile payment is an option in stores.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t success stories. For example, retail giant Walmart’s scan-and-go technology—available in 125 stores—allows shoppers to use Walmart’s mobile app or mobile scanners for a seamless sale from start to finish.
Consumers also want to visualize how a product will fit into their lives—a need that a few retailers are addressing with augmented reality.
6. Personalized response
Consumers’ expectations for a personalized experience are relatively low, and still many retailers fall short. Shoppers want loyalty rewards, but most retailers deliver only random specials or coupons.
Demand for customized products is also high, but few retailers offer this option. An exception is custom menswear maker Indochino, which not only recalls shoppers’ past purchases, but also makes in-person recommendations to provide a custom experience for each shopper. Another is Vans, which allows customers to select various colors and patterns to create their own sneaker.