Every touchpoint of the buyer journey should be taken into consideration when strategizing in an omnichannel retail environment — right? This seems like a simple concept, but in a fast-moving, competitive industry where share of shoppers’ wallets is at stake, sometimes basic concepts of customer experience are overlooked or neglected.
The retail landscape has changed dramatically as digital and e-commerce create new opportunities and unique challenges. But the in-store experience still matters — buying decisions are greatly influenced by what customers see, and consequently how they feel, as they shop. And that experience ought to be consistent each time they engage with your brand, both in-store and online. You can’t forsake physical in favor of digital.
Uptime transcends the digital space
Uptime is often used in connection with website functionality, as e-commerce has shifted retailers’ focus on the creation and maintenance of user-friendly websites that load quickly. It would be a shame for any part of the online experience to frustrate a shopper, abandoning their cart with items left unpurchased.
When you consider that 87 percent of shoppers have visited a retail store in the past month, and that millennials are more likely to visit brick-and-mortar stores than baby boomers (78 percent versus 70 percent), it’s clear that high standards of in-store experience are just as paramount.
There’s a term out there — “brand uptime” — that I believe needs to be made more of a priority. Brand uptime is “the concept of meticulously maintaining stores to project a consistent and positive image.” Customers have a perception of your brand that is informed by many factors: lighting, cleanliness, space to maneuver down aisles and around product displays, air temperature and quality, or availability of products. You have one chance to make a first impression, so consider the ways your brand can get it right the first time.
First impressions, right at the shelf
The aesthetics of your store are one way to improve brand uptime, and as a result, a shopper’s first impression. But the experience can also be improved through an investment in the right in-store technology. Interactive displays, free Wi-Fi, in-store navigation apps, and digital shelves are all ways to bring efficiency and delight to customers, whether they’re on a quick trip to grab one item or have time to explore the aisles a bit more.
One benefit of shopping online is the real-time visibility into product availability, but with the right technology, you can make that available in-store, too. Electronic shelf labels can display stock information, giving shoppers the right info before they engage a sales associate for help. Or, if it’s not available in that location, shoppers and the store associates can both know if another store has it in stock, right there at the shelf edge. Also mirroring the online shopping experience, ESLs can be easily display social reviews of the product or even competitor’s pricing, not to mention giving shoppers the confidence that the price they see on the label is accurate.
Increase brand uptime with personalized promos
With the latest ESL technology, even personalized marketing in-store can be made possible. The International Council of Shopping Centers recently studied retailer loyalty, and they found that 62 percent of consumers said they would be willing to spend more if they received customized offers while shopping. Innovation today allows you to push notifications directly to a shopper’s device, depending on their location in-store. Think about the impact of a personalized promotion offer delivered at the moment they’re thinking about a purchase. Brand uptime will be greatly influenced by a customer’s feeling of being catered to as they shop.
Every shopping trip is an opportunity to impress, and the uptime of your brand is dependent on a variety of physical store qualities. In-store experiences still need to be a focus for retailers, even when it might feel like you need to focus on the online space. Like your online presence, technology is key to creating an engaging and impressive in-store experience that will keep customers coming back and building your brand into one they love.