1. Find your place on the retail spectrum
Bob Dylan said it best, “The times they are a-changing,” and retailers need to be ready to embrace this philosophy of change. Over time, the line between online and offline retail will become increasingly blurred. Retail is in a state of flux with more and more bricks-and-mortar stores increasing their online presence and vice versa.
It’s helpful for retailers to stop thinking of shopping as an “online versus offline” experience, and more as a spectrum where online retail and bricks-and-mortar are constantly sliding along the scale in response to consumer trends. Understanding where the company sits on the spectrum and assessing it against where it should be, will influence how you approach the next step.
2. Implement new tools and strategies
At the heart of creating a better customer experience is the ability to stay relevant. Moving with the times has become a two-way street with online and offline retailers beginning to immerse themselves in ‘omnichannel’ retail. While bricks-and-mortar retailers are slowly gaining confidence in the online arena, the likes of US online brands Warby Parker, BaubleBar and Bonobos are following suit and opening physical stores.
Omnichannel Retailing concentrates on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, for example mobile-devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalogues, etc.
The new reality is that customers want to access content, buy products (be it online, or in a store) and receive service from wherever they are. It is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, it is an expectation from your connected customers that they can shop through whichever channel serves their needs right now.
Choose new tools and strategies wisely remembering not to neglect the core of bricks- and-mortar business; quality customer interactions. Implementing tech tools and online strategies alone will not solidify a retailer’s place in the market. As discussed earlier, consumers are looking for retail to be a whole experience which means that front-facing staff play an integral role in the success or failure of any bricks-and-mortar business.
3. Empower your sales team
While many things in the physical store add to the customer’s experience, none will do more so than front-facing staff. The way they are presented and interact with customers will have an impact on buying decisions and the long-term value of a customer to the business. If you can provide exceptional customer service you are going to do two things:
- You are going to attract more customers to your business.
- You are going to build up a strong base of brand advocates.
With the majority of the world’s population inseparable from their mobile devices, the online component of retail is here to stay. The fact that, as mentioned earlier, 95 percent of domestic retail sales are still taking place in physical stores, should heed a warning to New Zealand retailers. Bricks-and-mortar is still where a majority of the spend is, so it is still just as important to focus on customer experiences in the physical store as it is to focus on the online presence. It is imperative that retailers understand and embrace both channels.
Continuous training forms a vital part of effective learning. This is not revolutionary, and by no means a new approach. It is something that has been tried and tested and has proven itself to be a winning philosophy.
Technology is simply a tool; a catalyst for change that serves to supplement the existing customer experience. What will affect the most change in your sales figures and improve your customer’s experience, is the ability to empower your staff to be exceptional at what they do; provide exceptional customer service.