‘Experience retailing’ isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s been around for decades, but the stakes have been raised and now for retailers to stay ahead of the game they must deliver an all encompassing in-store experience that adds value to the customer journey.

IBM recently reported that consumers are increasingly purchasing through multiple retail channels and mass adoption of ‘showrooming’ – where shoppers price check and buy online while in-store – mean that retailers have to try that little bit harder to drive engagement in their physical space.

The secret of retail success today is a cohesive multichannel approach, which includes a clearly defined role for a bricks and mortar retail environment.

It’s no longer enough to stock shelves with goods at competitive prices and expect customers to make their way onto the High Street and through your door. There has to be a clear reason for them to make this journey, which doesn’t always have to be to purchase – as long as they make the final decision to buy with you.

Reasons to hit the shops for many are circumstantial, but retailers can get ahead by making their stores more interactive and entertainment orientated, ensuring that they have a role to play in a shopper’s journey. This must be a very different experience than what a customer gets online.

Personalising products in-store is one tactic with exclusive ‘behind-the-scenes’ experiences and clever use of new technology such as augmented reality. Brands are also getting more hi-tech with innovative use of interactive displays and video screens taking centre stage. Pop-up shops are also burgeoning with creative use of space used for sample sales, private ‘VIP’ events or simply to raise awareness – all helping reenergise a retailer by offering an element of fun, surprise and engagement.

A fantastic example is G Plan’s ‘sit test’. We found that getting shoppers to try furniture was key to their decision making, but many need encouragement to actually sit down. In response, ‘The Sit-Test’ was conceived – a direct invitation for shoppers to put their feet up and relax into the sumptuous comfort of a G Plan sofa. Customers are encouraged to sit for longer through the creation of a dwell area that features brand and educational information while a swatch wall entices them to explore options.

Getting ‘experience retailing’ right is about considering the entire shopper journey; from the moment a customer sees your shop front to their interactions inside and their encounters at the checkout. We’ve developed the SHOP™ process, which considers the six most important dimensions of the shopper experience:

By considering what experience you want to give a shopper – be that fun or informative – you can start to establish a framework. It should set out the personality that the environment should exude and be underpinned by the brand, which will then be clearly visible in different ways throughout your customer’s journey.

Education & Engagement
Also consider how to educate a shopper about the brand, product or service. This could be through encouraging customers to ‘try before they buy’, offering product demonstrations or making educational information more engaging through touch screens. The power of the personal touch shouldn’t be underestimated and a team of well trained experts offering a first-class service can really make a difference.

Fundamental to great ‘experience retailing’ is enabling people to easily navigate the environment, which is vital for larger retailers. Colour, clear and consistent signage and floor markers can all go a long way to ensuring shoppers don’t feel confused or over-faced.

Promotions such as ‘two for one’, discounts or ‘recommend a friend’ all help add urgency to a purchase. Clear information on offers outside a store can help drive footfall and inside items must be clearly marked to ensure shoppers can easily identify products on offer.

A store may be easy to navigate with great personality, but consumers will look to the digital world for information and reassurance. Make this easy by equipping them with the tools to share their experience or interact with others as part of their shopping process. This may include offering free wifi, or linking QR codes on POS to online reviews or a price comparison site.