Creating the Right Shopping Experience

Retailers are constantly competing for customers and customer loyalty. There are many different ways to attract and retain customers. One way is price. Price matters, but so do availability, signage and advertising. The element that contributes most to a successful sale is the customer’s shopping experience. When the shopper has a great experience, the retailer has created loyalty. Studies have shown that customers will accept less selection, travel a longer distance and even pay more to have a better shopping experience. It is important for every retailer to understand and exceed their customer’s expectation and provide a better shopping experience. Here are five steps that could help create a successful shopping experience.

1. The first step is to understand the shopper’s expectations and plan to exceed their expectations. This may sound obvious but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Retailers must meet and exceed individual shopper expectation without creating distraction. For example, a clerk at a fast food restaurant dressed in a tuxedo may exceed customer expectation but it would not contribute positively to the experience and may even make customers feel uncomfortable.
2. Before a retailer can offer better shopping experiences to their customers, they have to draw customers to the store. Advertising, brand messages, store locations and exterior signage are among the important pre-sale experience that shapes consumer expectations prior to in-store sale. Inside the store, features like merchandising strategies, interior signage, tags, employee dress code and checkout process further contribute to a successful shopping experience.
3. The human touch is often overlooked. The most powerful factor that could shape the consumer’s experience is the store’s staff. Of all the elements, what the employees do, how they dress, what they say, how they say it and when they say it have the greatest impact on the shopping experience. It is the human touch that makes the greatest difference. Consequently, retails must not only evaluate employees’ current contributions but discover how to increase their motivation, reinforce positive behavior that contributes to the shopping experience and discourage behavior that doesn’t.
4. The essence of defining the shopping experience lies in taking steps that will increase the trust that consumers feel for the store and the relationship the store establishes with their shoppers. The theme must have substance and be credible and demonstrable. Some of the tangible services include deli service, personal shopper, house account and home delivery.

After defining and identifying the above elements, the retailer must ensure that each element is in alignment with the desired shopping experience. You must ask “How does this element contribute to the customer’s expectation and experience?” Any inconsistency can be serious enough to undermine the consumer trust and credibility.

To design and deliver a successful consumer experience requires a thoughtful assessment of customers needs. A thorough evaluation of the current environment and a clear vision make a significant difference in the subsequent performance of the retailer and in the clarity of the message that each sign, advertisement and employee communicates to the customer.