When you watch the news or read the newspaper, it sounds like a bad time for retail stores. Hundreds and hundreds of retail store closures, many taking place in malls, are happening across the country.
From small and mid-sized retailers like Rue 21, Payless Shoe Stores, and American Apparel to large department stores like Sears, Macy’s, and JCPenny, it seems like no retail store is safe.
But despite the number of retail store closures, this is not the end of in-store shopping.
Smart retail stores can adapt to the changing landscape and thrive in this environment if they know how to focus on the factor that can still create lasting loyalty and repeat visits -- customer experiences.
Offer Consumer Experiences -- Not Just Consumer Products
Online shopping continues to grow because it offers customers the products they want without the extra effort of visiting a store. It’s difficult to compete with online retailers if you are competing on price and product offering alone.
To not become another one of the retail store closures, you must find a new way to differentiate your products from online offerings. And, you can do that by providing experiences along with your offerings.
Turn your retail store into a destination. Offer experiences that customers can’t get through online purchases. Play off your customer’s desire to try something new as much as their desire to purchase something new.
Reflect on your target customer base and create a retail space that taps into their desires for experiences they can only experience in person. For example, a:
- Swimwear store could add a surf machine to their showroom
- High-end clothing boutique could offer complimentary one-on-one sessions with a personal stylist
- Gift shop could rotate their walls with new art each month turning the space into a mini gallery
- Bookstore could host open mic nights, author readings, and book clubs
- Children’s clothing boutique could feature playing areas and children entertainment zones
As you brainstorm ways to create you own retail store customer experiences, consider the following approaches.
Customers still love to experience products in person before they purchase them. A retail study found that 85% of customers prefer to shop in-store because they like to touch and feel items before purchasing them.
Use this preference to your advantage and display your products in a way that allows customers to experience them fully. Put out samples, offer in-store product demos, and let shoppers try on and touch items out of the box.
Online purchases are typically a one-person operation. The shopper scrolls through pages and makes a purchasing decision with very little help from an associate. This is another opportunity to differentiate your brick-and-mortar retailer from online shops. Prevent retail store closures, by equipping your staff with tools and knowledge that can make the purchasing processes easier for your customers.
Outline a retail customer journey map that helps staff understand the full buyer’s journey. Then, arm your team with mobile digital devices so they can pull up product information. Train them to listen to customer problems and know how to provide the best product for their need. And, ensure that they can make each customer feel like a VIP.
Consumers, especially millennials, are prioritize spending money on experiences rather than on stuff. CNBC reported that since 1987, “the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70%.”
People wants experiences through events, so give them what they want. Turn your store into an event space. Host open houses and live trainings. Allow organizations to host events in your space while remaining open for purchases. Have a fashion show or invite in special speakers. Consider the event experiences your target audience would go to and then host it in your store.
The thought of browsing and shopping for items in a showroom may not entice customers to make the trip to your store. But, an upgraded experience where they get to do something more than shopping may lure draw them to the location and stop retail store closures.
Encourage shoppers to visit your store by adding something that people have to see or try. Build a unique display or piece of art that customers want to get a photo with. Break an unusual world record and promote it as a tourist attraction. Or, bring in experiential activities (like a rock climbing wall) or interactive digital screens (like virtual golf) to give customers additional reasons to visit your store.
Encourage your shoppers to become frequent visitors by offering loyalty rewards, experiences, and bonuses. Make customers feel like they can gain access behind a “velvet rope” by becoming regular shoppers.
Offer VIP status and bonuses to frequent shoppers. Hold members-only events, after-hours shopping entry, and early purchases for new products. Deliver in-store only coupons to select customers to bring them back again and again.
Don’t Be Another Retail Store Closures
Retail store closures may be on the rise, but this is not the end of in-store shopping.
Customers still crave in-store experiences. And, if you can deliver the high-end and engaging environment they want -- you’ll be able to stand strong even in the wake of other retail store closures.
For more tip on creating exceptional experiences that draw in customers and keep them coming back for more, grab our free ebook.