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.
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