As retail stores face increased competition with online shopping, they need to think of clever tactics to engage with their customers in ways that the internet can’t. Managing Director of Brand Dimensions Kris Willand shares his thoughts on why retail has to become more experiential in order to succeed.
The days of having a simple shop front with products on display and hoping the customers will come are long gone. Retailers now need to offer something extra, something interesting or something unique to shopping in a physical store.
The retail space is becoming more like an exhibition or event space, meaning that the objective of a retail space is no longer about just putting products on display, it’s about making them come alive.
People will always seek social interaction and the opportunity to experience a product before parting with their money.
Today’s customers are also more curious and want to know more about the story behind a product, where it has come from and what the brand stands for before making a buying decision.
Bricks-and-mortar stores therefore need to shift from a browsing model to an experiential model.
Here are 3 reasons why retail stores need to become more experiential:
1. Nothing beats personal interaction
While online shopping is becoming increasingly popular, retail stores need to ask themselves what kind of experience they can offer their customers that the internet can’t.
A retail store can offer the kind of personal interaction the internet fails to provide. If a customer is looking to speak to a real person to gain sound product or technical advice to help them make a purchasing decision, they can do so in a retail store.
Browsing and buying products online is not the same as standing with someone in a retail store who knows a product inside out and can explain it to you.
This means that the staffing quality in a retail space is now more vital than ever.
It’s not good enough for a retail staff member to rattle off the specifications of a product or show a customer a catalogue of products – that can all be done on the internet. The retail space has to go beyond that.
2. It’s no longer about the transaction
The transactional component of retail has changed completely.
In the past, the main element of a retail store was a big counter with a till where the transaction occurred. Nowadays, these transactions can be done a lot faster online, without the need to stand in line.
In an Apple retail store, for instance, you won’t find a till. The transactions are made face-to-face with the customer via portable, handheld point-of-sale machines. Their Genius Bar also offers personal interaction where customers can engage with Apple staff for technical support, repairs and free product workshops.
When you first walk into a T2 tea store, you are welcomed by the tasting table in the centre of the shop. Customers are welcome to taste T2’s tea products while they enjoy the store space. They’ve created a three-dimensional environment that customers want to explore.
For Nespresso stores, it’s all about experiencing the smell and taste of coffee. They give visitors a free coffee to enjoy while they browse products in store. And there’s no pressure to make a purchase then and there – the approach of the Nespresso staff is simply to hand customers a coffee and have a chat. It’s such an impressive experience.
Successful retailers of the future will be the ones that can offer a pleasant or entertaining experience to their customers, using sensory tactics to connect with people on an emotional level.
Additionally, every good retail store should be supported by a sound online presence. Retail was previously seen as a single-lane interaction with the customer. Now it has become a dual-lane interaction, where you have the physical store supported by a functional online component. It’s about merging the experience and service you can get in store with a seamless online presence.
3. Service stands out
Providing services in the retail space that are not readily available online is another way to compete.
Fashion stores will always have a place as a physical retail store because people can try on items of clothing before buying them. This is not something that can be done on the internet.
Even though a lot of people buy clothing online, that experience doesn’t compare to being able to try on the clothes, feeling the fabric and seeing how it fits before making the purchase.
The Athlete’s Foot has huge buy-in from their customers because of their personalised, in-store fitting service, Fitzi. Customers need to physically visit a store and have their feet assessed through a platform and screens that measure the shape and size of their feet, their pressure points and even their walking style. It’s a level of service that cannot be offered online and this is why, I believe, stores like this will continue to do well.
It’s all about the experience
In summary, the retail environment is moving away from a simple browsing and purchasing model to more of an experiential model. People like to touch, hold, feel and experience a product before they buy it.
People need to engage and experience, that’s what makes us human. And offering a unique or interesting experience in a retail space is, without a doubt, the best way to offer customers something they cannot find elsewhere.