The way in which people shop has changed dramatically in recent years, with online and mobile purchasing increasing in strides. We have seen some of our best known high street stores closing, and for many, this has reinforced the fear that we could see a shift away from in-store shopping in the future. We are being told to think smart and differentiate if we want to stay in the game. And the fear of getting it wrong can be overwhelming.
Perhaps it’s time to ‘take a breath’, as they say in Yoga circles. Freeze. Re-group. Chill. As far along as retail has clearly come, it may be time to return to basics.
Take the good old fashioned walk-through for example. Before the store opened in the mornings, the Big Boss would take a purposeful stroll around the shop floor, checking the surfaces were polished to a shine; making sure the customers’ favourites were on the right shelf, in the right place; and correcting any discrepancies, before opening the doors and letting the punters he knew so well peruse the goods.
These days we talk about the Customer Experience. We work hard to deliver something new or different that engages our specific customers and makes them look forward to a trip to our shops.
We might have a ‘come & try it’ area where customers can try our products for free. Or a bright orange section, because we’ve read that this switches on a need to buy for certain customers. Whatever it is, we can find ourselves consumed by it; like a new haircut, constantly checking it in the mirror to ensure every hair is still in the right place.
We think: With this bit of insight we’ve cracked it.
And we may be right: that orange wall may be the difference we’ve been looking for — but has it genuinely added value; has it really transformed the customer experience? Is it an integral part of our offering, or something we’ve tagged on the end to try to increase footfall?
To ensure it has genuine value, we have to be sure we can answer two key questions: Do we really know our customer? And, are we maximising the value of our environment? If not, then chances are, we’ve misread the whole thing and the orange wall is not going to work.
Knowing our customers and our environment are a must. Accurate customer profiling will help inform the correct curation of products and displays. And looking at our environment through the eyes of our customers helps us to identify opportunities to improve the customer experience. Both of these things deliver insights that can increase customer engagement and purchasing. And it is with this data as context that we can take a step back, and look at our offering with a fresh pair of eyes.
Armed with accurate insights, we can walk through our stores in our customers’ shoes. If we’re selling to children, let’s take along our children and see the customer experience from their point of view. Were the staff friendly, were products easy to find and reach, was POS clear enough — and how did that orange wall look as we trundled around?
The fact is, as consumer needs change, we do need to be smarter; we need to take advice, talk to our customers, and use all our skills and talents. But don’t let’s get lost in the theory, without making sure it suits what we’re offering — and if we feel overwhelmed, let’s take a breath, and take a walk-through…
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