The cornerstone of the retail customer experience is, of course, prioritizing and optimizing your customer’s journey.
By making each and every customer feel welcomed, valued, and as though their shopping experience truly matters, you can ensure you’ll see them again and again.
Loyal customers tend to spend more, return more frequently, try (and buy) new things at your store, and go out of their way to choose you over the competition. They’re also more likely to refer your business to their friends and family. It’s no wonder retailers prefer to put their energy into retaining customers versus always finding new ones. Acquiring new customers costs 5 to 10 times more than selling to an existing customer, and besides, current customers spend 67% more on average than new visitors.
So, what should you be doing to improve your retail customer experience? Read on for 6 tips to spark your inspiration.
1. Make your in-store shopping experience AMAZING
2022 has heralded the return of in-store shopping. Overall, while customers are still shopping online more than ever before, over half of consumers still prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. There’s nothing like seeing the item you want to purchase in-person, holding it in your hands, and not having to wait (or pay!) for shipping.
So, especially with the holiday season just around the corner, how can you make your in-store retail customer experience even more special?
The key is to give your customers experiences that can’t be replicated online. What that looks like depends on your retail store and what you do best. Maybe it’s free samples (see tip #5 below!), or a chat with a friendly staff member.
Another way you can prioritize an awesome in-person shopping experience is to physically set your store up for success. Point-of-purchase materials such as banners and signage, placed at strategic locations, can boost the customer experience and tell the story of your brand throughout their shopping journey.
For example, did you know that, in North America, customers tend to go towards the right as they enter your store? That’s why many retail stores are set up to guide visitors around in a sort of counter-clockwise circuit, with the cash registers to the left of the doors (upon entering).
You might choose to advertise your 20% store-wide sale right at the doors, for example, and add a sign showing the perks of joining your loyalty program for them to read as they wait at cash.
2. Utilize omni-channel retail to meet your customers everywhere they are
In the retail sphere, we’re already well aware that convenience is king. The quicker and easier the customer feels they can purchase something, the more likely they will follow through. This is why it is so important to ensure omni-channel shopping is part of your retail customer experience strategy.
Omnichannel doesn’t only mean “in-store and online” anymore. For example, many retailers are exploring selling via social media. The pandemic saw the rise of BOPIS (buy online, pay in store) and curbside pickup shopping, which many retailers have decided to adopt and offer permanently. Offering online gift cards in addition to physical ones has been another rising trend to address that hunger for convenience.
Meeting your customers where they are, whenever they want to shop, is a surefire way to garner more sales. Giving customers the freedom to shop wherever they want, and delivering a consistent brand experience across the board, will make them feel respected and comfortable shopping with you!
3. Put time & effort into your relationship with your customers to receive their time & effort in return
Speaking of building comfort, our next tip is about building a relationship with your customers. If you show them you’re willing to put extra effort into making their retail customer experience the best it can be, they will give you their business.
Think about the incredibly personal experience you have when supporting a small business owner through a site like Etsy. Many creators include a handwritten thank-you note with their orders. It makes their customers feel extra special, like their purchase had a huge impact. They put their time and care into packaging and sending out your order. How can you translate that feeling and give it to your customers on a larger scale, no matter the size of your business?
80% of consumers are more likely to purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. How can you inject personalization throughout the shopping experience? Maybe your staff spends an extra bit of time with each customer, even just chatting about their day. Maybe you implement an email marketing strategy to offer special discounts on their favourite items.
Ultimately, you want to get customers to invest their time with you. Look for ways to make the shopping experience more fun, more enticing, more enjoyable, so that they stay with you longer (or visit more frequently) and, inevitably, spend more.
4. Happy employees are your best advocates
It may not seem like it, but your staff members are integral to your business’s success.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself of your employees:
- Are they trained well?
- Are they greeting and interacting with customers regularly?
- Are they happy?
- Are they true advocates for your store?
Listen to your employees’ suggestions. They are the ones on the floor, connecting with your customers. They might have some compelling feedback that can have a massive impact on your retail customer experience!
By regularly touching base with your employees, and by extension your customers, everyone feels valued.
Want some extra inspiration for your staff? Offer them prizes for meeting certain sales goals! Promo cards are excellent for this. Load up $50 gift cards (with or without an expiry) and give them to your top-performing employees each week. Just make sure your goals are achievable to avoid demotivating them accidentally!
5. Use retail sales cliches — but keep surprises coming!
We all know those tried-and-true retail customer experience cliches like free samples and “while supplies last” flash sales. Psychologically, free samples are known to make customers feel obliged to do something for you back, like make a purchase. How can you put your own personalized spin on these tactics?
Any sense of urgency or scarcity will help spring your customers into action. Just be cautious of them seeing through a set-up! You must strike the balance between an exciting, limited-time sort of excitement, and a frustrating, FOMO-inducing one. The latter isn’t something you want regularly, but used strategically, will inspire customers to pay even more attention to your store so they don’t miss the next special sale. This gamification is a great way to improve the retail customer experience.
Give your customers as many opportunities as you can to capitalize on these great deals — after all, they’re designed to make sales, not tease your most loyal patrons!
6. Have a back-up plan!
Things inevitably go wrong in retail sales. There are always unexpected situations to deal with. The best strategy is to prepare your staff for as many of these instances as you can, and stay uncompromising about the customer experience. In fact, use them as opportunities to go above and beyond!
Is your customer sad that an item is not in stock? Offer free home shipping on their online order of said product!
Customer forgot their wallet in the car? Make sure your POS can handle a smooth, easy transaction suspension so operations are barely affected!
Dealing with a disgruntled customer? Use a promo card as a next-time discount, and ensure they leave impressed by your customer service regardless of the reason for their displeasure!
READ MORE: How To Handle Upset Customers (With Real-World Examples)
Your customers will appreciate it if your store has a ready-made back-up plan designed to ameliorate the situation as fast and as painlessly as possible.
Ultimately, knowing who your customers are and what they value the most will help guide your business’s retail customer experience. We hope these tips have been valuable to you as you look to grow and evolve your business!