7 Ways to Provide Engaging Shopping Experiences To Your Retail Customers

Thomas Brownlees

Thomas Brownlees

CEO and Founder,
440 Industries

Introduction

Retail is an essential part of any fashion business so much so that brands are developing new and exciting ways to make store visits meaningful and memorable experiences. The perceived value of your brand is strongly impacted by the way your store is managed, and in this post, we’re going to help you understand 7 different strategies that can help you increase the value of each customer visit.

Here are 7 strategies you can use to provide engaging and highly-converting experiences to your customers:

  1. Don’t Have Shop Assistants, Have Experts
  2. Make Shopping Multi-Sensory
  3. Create a Physical\Digital Shopping Crossover Experience
  4. Develop a Fun Checkout Experience
  5. Make Sure Shopping is an Entertaining\Educational\Aesthetic\Escapist Experience
  6. Build a Sense of a Community
  7. Optimise Your Retail Layout

Conclusions: A Bright Future For The Physical Store

1. Don’t Have Shop Assistants, Have Experts

One of the biggest changes brought by digitization is connected to the information available to customers. If in the past, clients had only shop assistants as sources of information before making a purchase, now customers are perfectly able to collect all of the necessary information on their own through digital means. As a result, the in-shop assistance can’t be perceived less informed than then customer, as the level of expertise requested to advise the customer is much higher. Shop assistance needs to really provide that extra level of authority and validation that Google can’t provide and show an honest passion and attachment to the values of the brand. When customers realise that shop assistants are not just there to help you make a choice, but to celebrate the product and the values that the product delivers.

2. Make Shopping Multi-Sensory

An engaging experience is something that distracts us and drives us to a different dimension where we leave our worries at the door and we experience the full power of the brand’s narrative. It’s not easy to distract the customer from his\her daily life and let him\her immerse into the store, but it can be done more easily if we try to provide a different combination of stimuli that appeal to his\her multisensory perception. We often try to impress our customers visually but sight is already over-stimulated by our digital devices, we need to be able to make an impression with elements which are more unexpected such as scent and olfactory elements which help to develop a store atmosphere.

Another way to stimulate your customer’s curiosity and engagement in the store is connected to providing an opportunity to touch the fabrics and hold the products, to fully benefit from the experience of touching the fabrics.
Store music can distract the customer and put him in a great position not to worry too much about the price of the product and to be better able to appreciate the opportunity to buy in the store. Ultimately taste can be an additional way to have your customer experience the store, even if it may not too easy to integrate this element in every occasion, you can simply offer something to drink to your customer, or even coffee to create that little moment of relaxation that can really set the right tone for the shopping.

We need to remember that these elements are really effective in building a store experience which revolves around a mood or atmosphere. We discuss this topic in other sources too. For instance, in this article, we talk about the importance to build an atmosphere as way to lead customers to buy. Sometimes emotions and impulses are too short to really act upon them, but atmospheres can really incline us to spend. In this article, instead, we talk about the importance of store atmospheres and what additional tricks can be used to implement one that leads to sales and engagement.

3. Create a Physical\Digital Shopping Crossover Experience

Nowadays customers can have different journeys that lead them to the product. Some start online and end in-store, this is called “webrooming”, some others start physically and end digitally, and this is called “showrooming”. What is important is that either can work, as digital and physical retail overlap and coexist. What we need to make sure however is that these two dimensions do not create a conflict. This is why the word we need to go for is omnichannel a dimension of distribution where the customer is at the heart of our strategy and as a result, all of the services we can implement are revolving around him\her. Try to make sure that the people who buy online have a reason to come in store, but do make sure that those customers who convert in-store, may feel comfortable buying online too. These two dimensions or purchase need to be perfectly attuned to make sure that they both work towards the same goal, making the purchase fun and effortless.

4. Develop a Fun Checkout Experience

Do you know what is not a fun checkout experience? Shopping in a supermarket. The more money you spend at the supermarket, the more time it takes for you to checkout. This makes absolutely no sense, supermarkets should celebrate big spenders by making their checkout experience more enjoyable. As a result, we sometimes limit our spending to a few items so that we can access the “fast lane” which for the supermarket means much less money. This is really something we should think about. We can spend a long time working on our store, but if the checkout is unpleasant or if it takes too long, we may take advantage of our customer’s patience and ruin a perfectly good experience. There are many ways in which customers can be entertained during the purchase, and if it does take a little longer, make sure you build up a ritual around it.

It’s these small details that really make a big difference and really give our customer
something to talk about. Whenever we do something out of the ordinary we’re giving our customers the opportunity to talk about us, and really build our word-of-mouth marketing. We actually address this form of marketing in more detail in this post, if you’d like to read more about this.

5. Make Sure Shopping is an Entertaining\Educational\Aesthetic\Escapist Experience

As we discussed, customers come into the store for something that cannot be simply the purchase of a product, as discussed in this post the value of retail is connected to the transactional value of shopping. This means that there is a lot of value in the process of purchase, not only in the output of the transaction. 

This is why stores have been building experiences that can be grouped in 4 different areas: educational, entertaining, aesthetic and escapist.

  • Educational. Customers go to the store because they want to learn, and understand the brand beyond their web presence. An educational experience allows shop assistants to discuss the way the brand is making a difference, and why it matters.

  • Entertaining. This is the type of experience mostly associated with shopping, customers go to a store as a form of entertainment, they like to spend time talking with the shop assistants about the brand, the product or anything else at all. This is an important aspect that many stores can work on, in the effort of making shopping fun.

  • Aesthetic. This is one of the most typical experiential formats offered in the context of luxury fashion. An aesthetic experience is connected to the idea of spending time in a beautiful building, with beautiful architecture in a beautiful part of town. This component cannot be disregarded, as we want to make the retail space itself capable of delivering the aesthetic code of our brand.

  • Escapist. Last but not least, we have the escapist experience. This is a type of experience which allows customers to leave their routine behind and be completely immersed in the store. This is something that many brands are doing with the use of augmented reality, that can, by all means, allow customers to escape reality and delve into shopping. In this article, we address augmented reality in retail in mode detail.

These types of experiential formats have been studied at length in the context of flagship stores, as their goal is primarily that of engaging the customer with the brand, to the point of disregarding sales. If you’d like to learn more about this, we discuss flagship stores in more detail here.

6. Build a Sense of a Community

Loyalty is hard to achieve, but if building a solid customer base is one of our goals (and it should be) then, we have to think about ways in which a store is not simply a retail outlet but a place of community. The idea of going to a store, being personally greeted at the entrance, being able to call shop assistants by their first name and feeling at home is something that really builds a sense of familiarity that transforms passers-by into returning customers. 

Developing a sense of community is not simple, but there may be different types of initiatives that can help you get there. Organise an activity, plan for a small retail party, invite your most valuable clients to an unveiling of the new collection. These activities do not only make your customers feel special, they allow them to interact and build relationships with each other. 

Ultimately, this overlap between social relationships and retail opportunities creates a strong network and a solid asset to your store.

7. Optimise Your Retail Layout

Make sure that your store layout is through-through. A store layout should follow clear reasoning to avoid creating crowded spaces, long lines or a general sense of business that dissuades passers-by to enter. You need to make sure the hottest items are hard to find, so that you can sell more of everything else, and allow customers to see all of the merchandise before they go for the most popular brands. 

There are a lot of tricks to be employed to keep your customers in-store and to maximise your average ticket, and if well done, customers will enjoy being exposed to all of what your store has to offer before making a purchase decision. We wrote several articles on store layout design in our blog, and here is one of our favourites: Managing A Fashion Retail Store Based on Your Customer Purchase Intent.

It’s really important to think about some of these design principles because in many cases they can even seem counterintuitive. Remember that shoppers come in the store with different purchase intents: sometimes they know exactly what they want to buy and as a result, they need to be able to instinctively navigate the store to find their desired items with no hassle. Other times customers come in with the intent to explore and it is a retailer’s job to put the customer in the best mood to consider impulsive purchases.

Conclusions: A Bright Future For The Physical Store

There you have it! These are 7 practical tips you can follow to provide to your customers more engaging shopping experience. Remember that as a retailer you have unparalleled access to your customers, you can talk to them, you can shake things up and see how they react to change, you can be creative with your store layout and with the experiences you are providing. The most important thing is to never take anything for granted, and experiment new initiatives to see what you can really do for your customers. 

Physical retail is here to stay, and even if many brands are not accelerating their transition towards digital distribution, customers will always enjoy immersive meaningful store visits where they can live the narrative of the brand and experience the products in a way that simply cannot be delivered digitally.

We hope this article has been helpful for you in order to understand what can be done to increase the engagement and excitement of your customer, make sure you check out other resources on our blog to find out more about retailing and retail marketing!

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7 Ways to Provide Engaging Shopping Experiences To Your Retail Customers In this post, we're looking at 7 ways you can engage your retail customers and provide them with memorable and meaningful experiences.
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Thomas Brownlees

Thomas Brownlees

I am an Anglo-Italian business lecturer and consultant based in Florence, Italy. In 2017 I started 440 Industries, an education and training company focused on fashion, music, and technology. Our mission is to help students, entrepreneurs and managers in overcoming the challenges of starting, developing and scaling their business in the creative industries. When there's a will, there's a way!

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