Why retailers should focus on experiences, not products
Retail Week recently reported that consumers are spending more on leisure than retail. In other words, people are spending on experiences, not products.
As retail sales battle to keep up with leisure, there have been several problems and proposed solutions for retailers, such as extended trading hours on Sundays and price cuts to increase footfall. These strategies focus on availability or product features, they don’t specifically focus on changing the customer’s experience of the brand, although they may slightly alter the perception, such as availability or affordability of products.
If people are spending for experience, a retailer’s customer involvement is what will make an impact and increase consumer spending. Experience encourages consumers to share and influence others, meaning customers can become brand advocates.
Many companies do claim to be working on improving their customer experience as a marketing technique. They claim to be focusing on a personalised and relevant participation, such as personal suggestions in email campaigns based on previous purchases or tailored discounts.
So what can retailers do to improve the customer experience and influence their audience?
Brand reputation plays a part, because the perceptions your customers have about you are what matters in their decision-making. The customer can be happy enough making the purchase in the store, but what about when they leave? What have they taken away with them apart from the product? This can be as simple as good customer service, the reminder of a new season launch, anything that adds to the positive perception of the brand.
Here are a few ideas for enhancing the retail customer experience:
Stores can create a completely new atmosphere for customers. Retailers, including River Island and H&M, have been known to bring DJs in store on a weekend. Knowing your audience is key, but there’s always something new to offer. Nail and beauty salons have also been set up in stores such as Topshop, which is a great way to alter the shopping experience and atmosphere.
Store lock-ins are a popular among students, and lock-ins are usually combined with offers. For example, shops offer entry for students only and offer a 10% discount to everyone in store. This can be combined with other experiences such as a bar with a lounge area and a fashion show.
Personal shopping is a popular method often used in flagship or larger stores. Having a member of staff help pick clothes that will flatter and complement a customer is a great way to go beyond customer expectations and help make their purchasing an experience.
iBeacon technology was discussed among UK retailers last year, currently used in stores such as Macy’s in the US. The idea was that mannequins could send data to customers’ phones as they walked by. If there’s a big event on in a city, the mannequins could send suggestions to customers’ phones, such as what to wear to that event or what the biggest trends at the event will be.
In-store guides can give shoppers outfit suggestions based on the occasion they are shopping for, such as birthdays or job interviews. These can be set up on mobile apps or in a leaflet, even in the layout of the store, as a practical guide to what to wear, what to wear it with and when to wear it. The channel used to provide the guide will depend on your audience and what they find useful. This provides an easy way to create a helpful shopping experience.
On social media, customer experience can be enhanced by content that differs from competitors. A lot of fashion retailers use images of outfits, new products and seasonal images. A retailer can benefit from any content that the audience has an interest in, as it can create engagement, increasing the potential for influence.
By being a little different, such as having a celebrity on board with the latest designs or having a blogger write about them, creates a new kind of content and a different insight into the brand, providing a new kind of experience for the audience. As an example, ‘Instagram takeovers’ have proved really effective, resulting in high engagement. This is where a brand invites a celebrity to control the account for a short period of time, either posting their own imagery, ‘how-to’ pieces or hosting Q&A sessions. These celebrities often have a huge audience already, so it’s providing a new experience for both the brand and the celebrity’s followers. And the brand has the extra advantage of bringing an influencer on board.
Apps such as Periscope offer brands the chance to create exclusive and exciting content by live streaming. High street brands can stream events such as a new product line or new season or store launch. The content is important here, but the content combined with the channel of delivery can create a whole new experience.
Snapchat offers a similar platform, but has recently created a new opportunity for big events. Logos or event banners can be added to a Snapchat photo, which can then be used by the brand to create a compilation of images that, if promoted, appears on every user’s app to view as a ‘story’. This is ideal for bigger retailers that want to create a buzz around an event, such as high street designer collaboration.
Exploring customer experience can be a fun and creative process, so enjoy!