5 Things Customers Want from Retail Stores and How You Can Deliver

5 Things Customers Want from Retail Stores and How You Can Deliver

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The world of retail is changing — perhaps faster than at any time in history. How can a small retailer keep up with what customers want? One way is by keeping up with the latest retail insights from retail consulting firm BRP. The company does a wealth of consumer surveys to find out what today’s shoppers want from retailers.

While some of the research is most applicable to larger retail chains with bigger budgets than small retailers, there is still a lot to learn. You’ll want to pore over the massive report yourself, but here are some of the key takeaways.

The primary trend affecting small companies is “Retail as the Third Space.” While this has been underway for a while, it’s really taking hold now. As e-commerce and m-commerce become more prevalent, JWT says, brick-and-mortar retail will increasingly serve as a “third space” that’s only partly about transactions. It’s just as much (if not more) about the customer experience, customer service and a unique, engaging environment.

What Retail Store Customers Want

1. Provide Personalized Customer Service

Customers want in-person service they can’t get online. This is crucial to differentiating your store from the one-dimensional online shopping experience. According to research from BRP, 79% of consumers say personalized service from a sales associate is an important factor in determining where to shop. Customers are more than willing to share their personal data if it helps you provide a better experience.

What to do: Gather customer data and use it to personalize offers and interactions. (See #4, “Loyalty Rewards” for more on this). But remember as a brick-and-mortar store, it’s your employees who put the “person” in “personalization.” Make sure your salespeople are well trained in customer service and empowered to make the customer experience outstanding. Hire for personality. You can teach someone to work a cash register, but you can’t teach “people skills.”

2. Offer Online/Offline Integration

According to BRP, 87% of customers want a consistent experience across all shopping channels. Even larger retailers are still playing catch-up in this area. Customers expect a seamless transition between shopping on your website (if you have an e-commerce site) and shopping at your store. For example, 56% want to be able to have a shared shopping cart across channels (such as putting something in your cart on desktop and having it show up on your phone), but just 7% of retailers offer this capability. Shoppers also want to be able to buy products online, then pick them up in store, or buy products online and return them to a physical store. However, just 29% of retailers offer click-and-collect, or buy online and pickup in store, as an option for customers.

What to do: If your business has both an e-commerce and brick-and-mortar component, make sure the experiences are integrated so one is an extension of the other. Investigate shopping cart software that lets customers share shopping carts across channels. Take an in-depth look at your store and website. Does your brand look and feel the same online and off? Try navigating your website like a customer would, paying attention to ease of browsing and buying. Is your e-commerce experience the same on a phone as on a laptop? Finally, take steps to add click-and-collect to your store.

3. Make the Most of Mobile Technology

How are you using mobile technology in your retail store? Your customers are using it for lots of things. Some 63% of consumers in BRP’s survey use their mobile phones while in a store to compare prices, look for offers or coupons, check inventory and more. Consumers expect to get mobile offers and coupons on their phones; 67% say such promotions are an important factor in deciding where to shop. In addition, 40% say they’re more likely to shop at a store that has a mobile point of sale (POS).

What to do: To keep up with your customers, you need to empower salespeople with mobile technology. BRP found that three-quarters of retailers plan to put mobile devices and tablets in the hands of their associates within the next three years. Currently, just 16% have them in-store and feel they are working well; 20% have them but feel improvement is needed. With mobile POS capability, your salespeople can process transactions of the sales floor the minute the shopper decides to buy. This eliminates waiting in line and gives salespeople more freedom to interact with customers on the sales floor. The newest POS trend BRP identifies: 22% of retailers let shoppers check out using their own phones.

4. Lure Them with Loyalty Rewards

Identifying customers as members of your loyalty rewards program during checkout is great. But what if you and your team could identify your most valuable customers the minute they walk in the store? Almost two-thirds (64%) of the consumers BRP surveyed say they are OK with retailers identifying them as they enter the store—as long as they receive something valuable in return. Among Gen Z and millennial shoppers, 75% are comfortable with retailers identifying them.

What to do: Look for loyalty rewards programs that allow you to identify shoppers via their smartphones when they’re in-store. To get customers to sign up and share their personal information and location, you’ll need to offer incentives. Invitations to special events, personalized promotions and rewards, and early access to new products are all desirable loyalty perks among consumers BRP surveyed.

5. Offer Store Financing

Cash-strapped and debt-leery millennials often don’t have credit cards. Paying for costly retail purchases (or even moderately priced purchases) can be a problem without credit. To solve the challenge, more and more retailers are offering financing that breaks payments into smaller chunks. It’s similar to the old-fashioned layaway concept, except customers get the product in hand right away. Retailers benefit, too: In one study, 36% of respondents say financing allows them to buy more expensive products than they could otherwise.

What to do: Financing isn’t just for big-ticket purchases. Even clothing retailers that cater to younger shoppers are starting to offer it because it’s something millennial customers want. If you target this market, learn more about how to provide installment payment options and providers that offer financing solutions for stores.

What do retail customers want? It changes from day to day. But since 63% of consumers will stop shopping at your store after just one unsatisfactory shopping experience, you’d better offer it.

Image: Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

19 Reactions
  1. It really begins with a personalized customer experience. In fact, this may be enough to get any person to buy online or offline. The key is to look for someone who is mature enough not only to handle concerns but also reflect the needs of your customers.

    • What annoys me the most about shopping in a store is the lack of service. Years ago there used to be enough sales people to help you choose dresses and clothes, assist you in the dressing room and get you different sizes, and then assist you at the register to purchase your items. Nowadays, there is about two associates to an entire floor and once you have chosen your items, you have to stand in a 45-minute line while one person is trying to help 25 people. At that point, I would rather just go online, choose my clothes and hit the button to pay. Have it delivered to me without standing in a long line. Today I stood in line for 35 minutes at one store for a return and 30 minutes in another to purchase an item. That is unacceptable. At that point, I was so annoyed I did not feel like shopping for anything else. The short answer is to step it up with more staffing not less. This goes for hotels, restaurants, and anywhere else that the customer is supposedly important.

  2. Mobile technology is the rage now. Big retailers are taking advantage of customers’ reliance on mobile phones to grab tons of data and personalize the sales experience.

  3. Customer service is very important, without your customer you are nothing. To win the customer over for your store, and to get the customer to always come back you have to go that exstra mile for them.You can build a customer relationship with them, what I do is, always nice to walk into the store and the sales assistant or manager great me on my name, you feel welcome and special.

    Tip….Never great them with the saying HOW ARE YOU!!!! You not a Doctor.

  4. Additionally with #1, I don’t want someone who’s just friendly. I want someone who is knowledgeable. More knowledgeable than me on the subject. On several occasions I’ve felt I knew more about the car I was about to test drive or the technology product I was considering. That’s a huge turnoff.

  5. I like these ideas and the thought of directing the feel of the store towards a certain age group is perfect. Maybe a focus group could be used and they could tell you what they would like to see in you store, the top five ideas get put in.

  6. Martin Lindeskog


    I have been studying the third place phenomena for some time. It is interesting to see how stores are becoming the place to hang around at, shopping and doing other things at the same time, e.g., drinking a beverage and surfing the net.

  7. I believe there’s nothing wrong with their move. It’s like going for a company who doesn’t provide the best customer support for you – just leave. It’s their prerogative and I’m sure they’ve thought about their decision over and over again.

  8. I agree with you when said that personalized customer service from a sales associate is a very important factor in the service satisfaction of every customer. I like how you provide the things that a customer wants from a retail store. I would love to have a personalized customer service too when I visit a convenience or retail store in the area. Who doesn’t want that, right?

  9. Thank you for reminding me that my customers are always looking for the in-person experience that they won’t be able to get online whenever they visit my store. My sister and I are thinking of opening up a boutique aside from launching a website so we can provide a physical location to our potential customers and let them choose from our range of clothing personally. It might also be better for us if we were to invest a lot in our physical store to ensure a good experience for our customers, so I’ll try to see if having automatic doors is a good choice and start from there.

  10. It was interesting when you mentioned that about 63% of consumers use their phones to help them shop after entering a retail store. Now that I think about it, I’d be interested to learn if mobile phones can be integrated with other technology such as electronic labels or digital price tags to further enhance the shopping experience for the customer. I enjoyed reading your article and learning more about the expectations customers have for businesses, so thanks for sharing!

  11. OPPN Ads thanks you for the knowledgeable post which has helped a lot peoples. Keep it up for providing valuable information..

  12. It was interesting to learn about how in all shopping channels customers want a constant experience with a seamless transition. I can understand how beneficial it could be for a business to improve their building to be more effective. Getting the fitting done by a professional could help them be more productive.