6 Ways to Compete Using Retail Customer Experience

How can you provide a retail customer experience that will attract customers and keep them coming back? Here are some ideas.

It started with the Great Recession.

As they tightened their belts, Americans spent less on products and more on experiences. While the economy has improved, this attitude hasn’t changed: Consumers of all ages are increasingly spending their money on experiences rather than things. What does this mean for your retail business, and how can you compete with experiences like exotic vacations, rock climbing adventures or fun dinners out with friends?

Last December, nearly 40 percent of consumers in a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey said they would enjoy receiving experiences (such as tickets to a play or passes to a yoga studio) as gifts during the holidays.

The younger the survey respondent, the more likely they are to value experiences: some 57 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds want to receive experiences. So do almost 50 percent of those aged 25 to 34, about 44 percent of 35-to-44-year-olds and nearly one-fifth of those aged 65 and up.

The trend toward purchasing memorable experiences rather than products is on an upswing, predicts Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst, Retail, of the NPD Group. “In 2017, consumers will be very aggressive about spending on experiences at the expense of product,” he writes in the NPD Group blog. In order to compete, Cohen explains, retailers will need to “step up their game” by “[enhancing] the shopping experience and [bringing] the excitement of the product to the consumer.”

Retail Customer Experience Ideas

How can you make shopping at your store an experience that will attract customers and keep them coming back? Here are some ideas.

  • Add interactive elements to your store. This could be as simple as providing tablet computers to entertain children whose parents are shopping in your store. (It doesn’t take much to create an “entertainment destination” for young children.)
  • Incorporate social media into your in-store experience. Since many Millennials pursue experiences that they can share on social media, adding a social media aspect to your store can help make it more entertaining. For example, you could set up a “selfie booth” near your clothing stores dressing room where customers can try on outfits and take pictures to share with their friends.
  • Create in-store experiences relevant to what you sell. For example, bookstores can hold author readings, book signings and book launch parties. A pet store could hold a pet costume contest for Halloween. A beauty supply store could provide makeovers or hairstyling.
  • Whet your customers’ appetites. Eating and drinking are major sources of entertainment for most people. If you have room and if your local zoning laws allow it, consider adding a coffee bar, serving tea or selling desserts.
  • Retailers should also create marketing materials that emphasize the experience of owning the product. For example, if you sell camping gear, your marketing can convey the adventure and discovery of camping, tying the experience in with your product.
  • If you’re looking for a new location, keep an eye on local shopping centers. Many shopping malls around the country are looking to entertainment venues, such as restaurants and movie theaters, to become anchor tenants in place of now-empty department stores.

Customer Photo via Shutterstock

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.