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Many retailers are stuck in a defensive crouch. They fixate on their comp sales ID, comparing today’s number with where it was a year ago. They’re focused on protecting what they have, and maybe getting a nice win this year.
It’s a dangerous way to live.
Foot traffic, on the whole, is in decline. Malls are dying; online retailers are booming. Today’s busy consumers prefer the easiest route to a purchase, often bypassing physical stores altogether.
To draw customers in, hook them, and get them to spend more over time, you must become a retail destination.
Getting there will require two things: a bold new strategy, and near-perfect execution. Fail at one or both, and you may soon find yourself on the path to irrelevancy.
A Winning Retail Strategy Has Three Aims
To score big gains in revenue and market share, you must compete to win. Your strategy planning should start with these two questions:
How can we create an outstanding customer experience?
How can we ensure it’s consistent?
You can’t be all things to all people. So go bold on behalf of your target customer. Find new ways to set yourself apart, consistently fulfill your brand promise, and build brand trust.
1) Make It Easy
Omnichannel isn’t about selling your in-store inventory online. It’s about allowing people to shop wherever they want, in a way that’s convenient for them—and having your entire organization operating in sync.
The National Retail Federation’s Omnichannel Retail Index, a biannual report that debuted last year, examined 120 retailers’ omnichannel strategies based on a wide range of web, mobile, and brick-and-mortar criteria. In some categories, the results were mixed; other findings revealed big opportunities. For example, while 84% of retailers allowed customers to view their shopping carts across multiple platforms, only 23% enabled customers to buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS).
Not surprisingly, Amazon has already seized on the next big retail trend: The Internet of Things (IoT). Its year-old Amazon Dash service allows customers to reorder products at the touch of a small, portable button and receive push notifications on their mobile devices to confirm their purchases.
Whether Amazon Dash will go the way of the Kindle reader or the Fire Phone remains to be seen. But it’s one more risk Amazon is willing to take to make shopping (and brand loyalty) ridiculously easy.
2) Make It Interesting
Making shopping easy is how you stay alive. To change your brand’s trajectory, you need to generate demand for the shopping experience itself.
On this score, Apple Stores are in a league of their own. Thanks to the stores’ unique design, brand culture, and path to purchase, shoppers intentionally go there to explore—and spend more per square foot than with any other retailer.
Retailers like Adidas and Verizon are making shopping interesting by blurring the line between digital and brick-and-mortar retail. They’re creating interactive experiences that are fun, engaging, and not bound by physical walls.
Other retailers are turning in-store visits into memorable, rewarding experiences, offering everything from consultations and group classes to gourmet food, live performances, and contests. Purchases happen naturally—though they’re incidental to the main event—and happy customers are sold on the brand.
3) Make It Human
I’m all for productivity and efficiency. But I shudder at the thought of relying on artificial intelligence, à la Facebook chat bots, to serve customers. Automated phone systems (I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you. Please say or enter…) are annoying enough.
When people interact with a brand, they want to be cared for, understood, and clearly valued. And they want a meaningful response when the customer experience goes south.
Human-to-human engagement is what an outstanding customer experience (and year-over-year revenue growth) is all about. In an ideal world, your associates aren’t just turning gears; they’re making customers feel welcome and giving them helpful information to smooth the path to purchase. They’re making sensible suggestions to build sales. And they’re softening the blow and offering solutions when brand missteps occur.
From Strategy to Execution: What You Need to Succeed
In a recent survey, 33% of retail executives said they didn’t trust lower-level teams to do right by the customer. That’s hardly surprising; in many companies, the C-suite and sales floor are worlds apart. When retail associates are bombarded by conflicting messages, they simply muddle through and do the best they can.
Not exactly a recipe for breakout success.
To execute your strategy with precision, you need to take concrete steps to break down silos and align your entire organization. Mystery shopping programs are designed expressly for this purpose. They ensure that, by the time the strategy and messaging get to the front lines, they’re being communicated exactly as discussed and developed. Employees know exactly what’s expected of them, and corporate priorities for the customer experience and the store environment are crystal clear.
Best of all, the feedback is immediate and measurable. Is the new strategy being executed properly? You’ll know without a doubt. If it’s not, you’ll know exactly what to correct, and how.
We Want to Hear From You
Which retail destinations inspire you the most? What lessons do they offer about the customer experience? How are you continuing to attract customers (and not just traffic) to your stores?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
This article was originally posted to our blog where you can find more posts like this at ICC/Decision Services Blog.