Five steps to a captivating retail shopper experience

Shoppers will travel further, accept fewer choices and even pay more if the experience is better for them. So how do you sculpt a winning shopper experience?

Shoppers will travel further, accept fewer choices and even pay more if the experience is better for them. So how do you sculpt a winning shopper experience?

Retail is the world’s largest business. It affects everyone. And it’s not always easy being a retailer. Take a good look around any shopping precinct.  Notice the ‘for lease’ signs?

There is intense competition from global competitors entering our market in a bricks and mortar sense (via Australia), not to mention variable shopper confidence, cost of labour, exchange rates, lease costs and online commerce.

But is it really that bad? Witness the queues for the opening of new retailer offerings in Australia and New Zealand. The queues for Zara don’t seem to end, or those at Gap and Daiso – not to mention the opening of an Appliance Shed that caused mayhem in the Auckland suburbs.

But thanks to e and m-commerce, the playing field has changed – shoppers experience brands before they physically hit our stores.

The days when the store managed the shopper experience with ‘stack it high, watch it fly’ or ‘we have that range of products for you but only in black’ has long gone. The shopper now manages her own experience, defined by what she can interact with virtually and physically.

The physical store is still at the heart of most shoppers' relationships with retail brands. Only the good strong retailers will prosper.

Boil down the essence of retailing and it’s all about converting a shopper into a buyer - getting someone with a need for your wares (which they may not even be aware of) to choose you. This is every day retailing.

It’s an art, and also a science. It’s how you engage customers' hearts and minds, and their souls too, creating that sweet spot where shoppers love you beyond reason. It’s a place where sometimes they simply cannot articulate why they choose your store over a competitive alternative.  I guarantee that nine times out of 10 it comes back down to delivering engaging experiences.

Experience is the emotional dimension; smells, sights, excitement, touch, taste, tantalise.

If we spend a minute thinking about the path to purchase, it’s important to acknowledge that shoppers, who walk in the door, are complex creatures, we are people who respond to stimuli which may come from many different sources.

So it’s the design of the shopper experience which will define success for retailers. Too many retailers don’t understand how to design a shopper experience to ensure it trumps all other factors in the consideration process.

Fact: shoppers will travel greater distances, accept a narrower selection and even pay more if the experience is better for them.

So how do you sculpt the shopper experience to create an engaging and memorable and unique experience?

Designing the shopping experience

There is a five point process to effectively audit and assesses the opportunity against what exists, what can exist and what will define success.

Understand the shopper

There is no one size fits all and the shopping experience must fit the individual shopper and continually exceed their expectations – if only by a small amount – sufficiently so that the shopper is aware the experience has exceeded their expectation.

Stock take every touchpoint shoppers have on the path to purchase

From advertising, location, signage to ticketing, merchandising strategies to the checkout process and everything in between. Evaluate how and how much each contributes to the experience and how consistent these are with the business model.

Recognise the role of people as a powerful experiential asset

How they dress, interact and talk will have the greatest impact on a shopping experience. Recognise the current contribution and discover how to optimise and motivate – this is critical to enhancing future experiences.

Define the experience

Do this and will you craft the essence of the experience, the steps that will increase engagement and provide successful, memorable features to the shopping experience. This jumpstarts your differentiation.

Bind it together

You’ve identified, catalogued and evaluated the experience and defined what good is going to look like. Making it happen is the planning and implementation process that aligns the vision with the reality.

Case in point

Pennington’s, a Canadian plus size fashion retailer, demonstrated great insight into the shopper experience, with everything 'styled to surprise'.

Ladies who may not always get a kick out of shopping for fashion due to their size and shape stepped into Pennington’s change rooms and got one heck of a great surprise.  They installed the world’s first mirror that reflected the joy of finding a fabulous fit. Upon standing on floor decals they activated an incredible motion sensor technology where two realistic firemen checked out the shoppers’ new clothing and performed an act for them before disappearing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tird66YQbZA

Without a doubt this created a super-exceeding experience where shoppers were surprised and delighted. They came back in droves and Pennington's were successful in the art of being chosen.

How will you sculpt an experience to get your store chosen?

Juanita Neville-Te Rito is chief executive of Hotfoot and blogs at retailgeek.co.nz