As major cities across the globe implemented harsh restrictions designed to limit the spread of Coronavirus in 2020 and 2021, our daily lives and behaviours have been undeniably altered by the pandemic. People are yearning to get out of the house and experience some excitement but fear being exposed to the virus. More and more people have embraced ecommerce, with some consumers less willing to return to stores – not when they can save time and stay safe by shopping online. 

So how can brands blend and improve online and in-store retail experiences? Retailers will need to work hard to meet the ever-evolving customer experience requirements to remain relevant.

Shaking up the traditional sales approach with ‘Retailtainment’

For years now there has been a push for retailers to elevate the shopping experience to new heights. Attention is being shifted from a features-and-benefits approach to a focus on unique customer experience. With 78% of millennials choosing to spend money on a desirable experience over a desired product, consumers are crying out for brands to deliver fun, unique and immersive in-person experiences. Huda Beauty caught the eye of consumers with an immersive retail experience pop-up right in the centre of Covent Garden London. They delivered a sci-fi themed experience in support of their new eye-shadow palette Mercury Retrograde. The entire exterior was a metallic mass made up of geometrical shapes. The inside featured various ‘galactic’ elements, mirrored surfaces and shimmering fixtures and elements.

Younger generations in particular are craving unique experiences they can brag about online. They document much of their lives on social media, including the brands and local stores that they consider a part of who they are. Brands like L’Occitane provide iconic art installations and Instagrammable photo spots within their stores to cater to these behaviours. Retailers must find the balance between driving visitors toward purchases and providing memorable experiences to keep customers coming through the door.

The happiness people get from buying things is fleeting, but entertainment can create long-lasting memories. By delivering engaging and creative experiences, retailers are able to differentiate, stand out and build brand loyalty in a competitive market. It’s time to shake up the traditional sales approach and begin experimenting with sound, ambience, emotion and activity.

Providing convenience through an omnichannel approach

When it comes to shopping and order fulfilment it’s wise to give the people what they want. That is options to get their hands on products in the most convenient way possible for them. For some shoppers, this is shopping in-store or shipping to their house. For others, it’s buying online and picking up in-store or curbside. This extends to the checkout options you have in-store, such as self-serve, cashier and mobile POS. 

The pandemic has reinforced the need for various omnichannel strategies with many consumers trying out models they haven’t previously used. Click-and-collect or buy online pick up in-store in the US grew by 106.9% in 2020 from the previous year. In the UK, online grocery sales in 2021 reached 8.8%, exceeding the pre-pandemic forecast of a 7.7% share by 2024. If one thing is for certain, it’s that these models are here to stay. Consumers report high intention to continue using models after the pandemic.
As customers bring their shopping habits back in-store, they will be expecting similar levels of safety and convenience that they get online. Nearly half (48%) of consumers wouldn’t shop at a store that only offers payment methods requiring contact with a cashier or shared machine like a card reader. Faster and contactless checkout experiences will be huge dealbreakers for consumers.

Take a look at how CLX has helped brands elevate their customer experiences through improving efficiencies, training staff, and reducing transaction times. If you’re interested in creating a customer experience people will come back for, get in touch with us today to find out more.

Focusing on the human element consumers can’t get online

With the global pandemic further driving the boom in online shopping, it’s critical for retailers to evaluate the one thing people can’t get online – face-to-face customer service. For many consumers, nothing beats interacting with helpful, friendly and genuine staff who go above and beyond. A huge 79% of consumers say the service and attention they receive from store employees is an important factor in determining where they shop and whether or not they make a purchase.

For many brands, the human element is essential for successful customer experiences. Consider your own employees – how well do they know your products? Can they effectively recommend items to your customers? What insights or stories can they offer that customers can’t find online? Investing ample time and into training your employees to raise their performance and instil a deeper sense of service is crucial.

Mobile POS and other self-service checkout options are becoming popular ways to free up employees from traditional checkouts and allow them to roam freely through your store. Staff can then spend more one-on-one time with potential customers to improve satisfaction and enhance customer loyalty.

Bridging online and brick and mortar

Whether it is in-person or online, consumers want a good, seamless shopping experience. Research has found around 40% of shoppers want human interaction in their online shopping journeys. They want to interact with stores and brands in real-time, asking questions, viewing products and getting recommendations through chatbots, apps, text and live video. 

Forming a direct link between customers browsing online and a brand and their in-store associates will encourage consumers to follow through with transactions. With this in mind, over half (58%) of the retail leaders surveyed want to digitise store staff by giving them online capabilities. Curry’s PC World in the UK has been rolling out its ShopLive service, which allows customers to video chat with one of their tech experts. From laptops and printers to TVs and washing machines, the service allows their tech experts to help customers work out the right tech option for them.

Online human interactions will never replace face-to-face interactions in-store, but allow retailers to use the best of both worlds and blend the online and in-store experiences. Brands that can offer the human touch element of a physical store and the speed and reliability of an ecommerce store – regardless of the channel – will stand out from competitors.

Health and safety is in the spotlight

Over the last few years, we’ve experienced a monumental shift in consumer behaviours right in front of our eyes. As the world grapples with the pandemic, consumers are placing a new level of importance on health and safety. Physical distancing and a new preference for contactless service have transformed traditional store operations and the overall customer experience. 

The adoption of self-service and mobile checkouts has accelerated significantly during the pandemic. Looking to get in and out of stores as quickly and safely as possible, customers are demanding more contactless and self-service shopping experiences which involve little to no physical human interaction.

For brick and mortar spaces these behaviours are likely to stick around. To entice customers to return to in-store shopping, alleviating their anxieties and fostering a safe space will be critical. Businesses will need to prioritise safe distancing, clean and sanitised surfaces and products, contactless checkout options and communicate these policies and processes clearly and empathetically.

Creating connections beyond transactions

A multi-channel approach to online and brick and mortar space allows you to improve connections beyond the transaction. Use this to your advantage by finding ways to build a community of loyal customers within your store. You could host community classes and events or even run your own, create a space where people are able to use and test your products, or build a communal space that encourages people to get together and interact. This community-focused customer experience will keep people in your stores longer, keep them coming back and get them talking to their friends and family about your brand.
Shoppers see physical retail as more than a place for transactions. For them, it’s a place for bonding, support, and surprise. They also define parts of their personalities through the brands they engage with so it is important you reinforce the values of your brand when building your community. For example, activewear brand Lululemon invites guest yoga instructors to teach early morning and end-of-day classes in their stores. Highlight to your customers that your store doesn’t just reside within the community, but actually plays a valuable and active part in the community.

It’s time for brands to embody their brand ethos within their physical spaces and give customers safe, unique and favourable customer experiences. Creative and immersive physical environments and innovative fulfilment and checkout options will help brands to stay ahead, however, excellent customer service and health measures are equally as important.