E-commerce is on the rise, and retailers with brick-and-mortar storefronts are searching for new ways to appeal to customers more and more accustomed to the speed and convenience of online purchases.
Your customers’ interactions with and reactions to your business are more important than ever. This guide to retail experience will take you through what it is, why it matters and how you can make yours as impactful as possible.
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Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- What Is the Retail Experience?
- Importance of the Retail Shopping Experience
- How to Improve the Customer Retail Experience
- Value of Adding Curbside Pickup Shopping to Improve the Retail Experience
- Browse USA SHADE Curbside Pickup Shopping Shade Structures
What Is the Retail Experience?
- Pre-purchase stage: This stage involves any interaction a customer has with your store or branding before making a purchase. It includes steps occurring before visiting your physical location, such as viewing your ads and interacting with your website — 76% of U.S. consumers check you out online before visiting your physical location. It also includes impressions that they might generate from your store exterior or parking.
- Purchase stage: This stage involves interactions within your physical store or on your website that lead to a purchase. It includes the customer’s experience with browsing, product packaging, interactions with staff and checkout. Online, it also includes your website interface and scheduling software for delivery or in-store pickup.
- Post-purchase stage: This stage extends the customer’s retail experience past the point of purchase. They will continue to form opinions and associations through their contact with your business via app, site or phone call. Your social media presence may also have an impact during this stage.
Importance of the Retail Shopping Experience
The rise of Amazon and other online shopping giants presents a new challenge for today’s retailers. Customers willing to wait a little longer or put in extra effort searching can get nearly anything without ever entering a store. An exceptional retail experience is now more critical than ever for businesses that want to stand out as superior options.
Sales and Reputation
As the quality of the experience rises, your product or service’s perceived value also increases. When the shopping and buying processes are positive and pleasant, it raises a customer’s perception of the value they receive per dollar spent.
- Is your store sensorily appealing? Is there pleasant music playing? Are there any strong or overwhelming smells? Are the shelves and displays aesthetically organized?
- Can they quickly locate the products they’re looking for? Is your signage clear? Are the aisles easily navigable? Are you well-stocked and well-organized?
- Have they received excellent customer service? Were their questions answered? Was it easy to find an employee if they needed help? Was the sales staff friendly?
- Were they able to check out quickly and efficiently? Were there long lines with few registers? Was the process smooth and straightforward? Was it easy to figure out how to reach the checkout area?
Customer Lifetime Value
How to Improve the Customer Retail Experience
How can retailers improve customer experience enough to make a difference with so much competition? Today you’re competing against more than the other brick-and-mortar stores serving the same market — you’re up against the entire internet.
There are things in-person shopping can offer that customers can’t get online. Remember, even with increasing online sales, customers want to shop at physical stores when the option is available. Take a look at the processes and services you provide to ensure you’re doing everything you can to increase your business’s appeal. Give customers a reason to prefer shopping with you and take your business from an option to a destination.
If you’re not sure where to begin, this section offers tips on improving the customer retail experience to help get you started.
Stand Out From the Crowd
Offer experiences only possible in an in-person setting, like Canada Goose’s Cold Room that lets people test their coats against temperatures nearly 30 below zero. Offering something they can’t easily find somewhere else increased customer interaction and interest in their products. Live events and celebrations, signings with local authors and in-store-only sales are all ways to encourage customers to visit and set you apart from the competition.
Some strategies to attract consumers for more frequent business include:
- Create a memorable and fun in-store experience.
- Offer exclusive in-store-only discounts.
- Offer exclusive in-store-only products.
While all of these are certain to provide a temporary boost, the best way to distinguish your retail business from the competition is to provide exemplary customer service. When customers have a question for your in-store or online staff, they expect friendly, helpful customer service. Meeting or exceeding those expectations with a personalized, efficient experience can be the first step towards building customer loyalty.
Selection, discounts and sales are things your customers can easily find online. On the other hand, customer service is an area where you can truly shine.
Value Your Employees
- The quality of the customer service each customer receives
- Product quality, price, variety and availability
- The store’s physical layout, including product placement and aisle design
Protect your investments by ensuring employee retention. The longer they’re a part of your business, the more knowledgeable they’ll be, and the better the service they provide will become.
Polish Your Buying Process
- Shorter checkout lines: Ensure you have enough staff to cover the registers and keep wait times down.
- Self-checkout: Include self-checkout options for customers with smaller purchases or those who prefer to check out themselves. Technology allowing customers to scan their purchases as they shop, like Kroger’s ‘Scan, Bag, Go,‘ can speed this up even further.
- Curbside pickup or buy online, pick up in-store: These options have considerable appeal for customers who want both the convenience of online shopping and the immediacy of purchasing in-store.
- Guest checkout: Requiring an account to check out may turn off some customers shopping on your website. Instead, allow them to check out as a guest and ask them to create an account afterward.
Value of Adding Curbside Pickup Shopping to Improve the Retail Experience
When it comes to retail experience improvements, offering curbside pickup is one of the most straightforward and concrete things that you can do. In fact, customers in today’s retail landscape may already expect this as a basic part of your business.
Customers ordering from your website is undoubtedly preferable to placing their order elsewhere. However, this makes your limited interaction with them monumentally more important. Leveraging your customers’ retail experience relies on optimizing every potential touchpoint. With curbside pickup, your potential touchpoints are reduced, and you need to make the most of what remains.
What are the things that make curbside pickup most appealing to customers, and how can you offer what they want most?
1. Greater Convenience
Curbside’s primary appeal is its convenience. It offers the ease and comfort of online shopping while allowing customers to skip the wait on shipping.
Consider ways to make the experience even more convenient for your customers:
- Link rewards and coupons to your online app: If it’s easier for your customers to save money, they’ll be more likely to spend money.
- Keep a record of their in-app or on-site purchase history: Having this information available will make it easier for them to reorder favorite items.
- Offer a wide range of pickup times: The more opportunities they have to fit a pickup service into their schedule, the more often they’ll use it.
- Keep enough employees available: You’re likely to need extra staff to pull purchases in preparation, deliver the purchases to the customer’s car and still maintain adequate staff to keep in-store operations running smoothly.
- Consider multichannel pickup: On top of direct delivery to a customer’s car, you might also use lockers that customers can open with a QR or punch code.
- Watch for holidays, seasonal trends and weather events: Forewarned is forearmed — in addition to ordering extra inventory and adjusting displays with shopping changes, you may add additional pickup times and hire more temporary help.
3. Wide Selection
- Link your app and point of sale system: Having a real-time display of what items are in-stock or out-of-stock gives customers greater security during the ordering process.
- Offer detailed substitution options: In addition to a global choice to accept substitutions for out-of-stock items, offer the same choice on a per-item level. Adding options to select brand preferences will give customers greater control over their final delivery and increase their satisfaction with the process.
Browse USA SHADE Curbside Pickup Shopping Shade Structures
Adding shade structures to your curbside pickup area is an easy way to make the most of this touchpoint.
USA SHADE has options for everything under the sun. Our cantilever shade structures use minimal columns, so every parking space they cover is available for your customers. You can even customize the color and design to complement your business’s branding.
If you’re ready to improve your customers’ retail experience and you’re looking for quality products that last, request a quote at USA SHADE today.