The shopper’s journey can literally change each and every time they shop. They are navigating their own way through shopping experiences in a time when they can buy anything and everything at the tap of a key.
With the swipe of a screen we browse, pin, tweet, buy, compare products and provide star ratings, and this has been very tough for retailers to get their head around. Retailers have absolutely no control, as portable devices mean shoppers can access information on the retailer whenever and wherever they need it.
The implications for retailers means the shopper journey is more akin to a pinball machine, bouncing and flicking about anywhere, anytime. The upside of this is that it creates a multitude of opportunities to connect with shoppers.
To survive in this new, complex, content-rich world and to convert shoppers into loyal advocates, it takes more than traditional retailing. This is a wonderful challenge for retail businesses as there is no longer a rule book to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. There are now many different and right ways to connect that are perfect for you and your shopper. Connecting with your shoppers means not only can you have insights into their behaviours, but you can also develop engaging ways to build a two-way relationship with them through experiences.
Shoppers can be irrational and unpredictable, but they do crave rich, seamless, engaging and frictionless experiences. They want to touch, feel, taste, smell and interact. Shoppers want to know about the authenticity of the product or the retailer. They need to know that it is the real deal and that by buying from you is a good choice (or a damn great choice). They want to feel good about their purchase and that you didn’t rip them off – whether that be in not giving the right curation of choice, quality or value.
Retailers need to think about the collection of individual shopper touch points. They need to reformulate these together around the shopper journey whenever, wherever and however the shopper wants to shop.
In the old days you might have simply opened your doors and dictated your trading hours, let everyone take their lunch break at 12:30pm and told your customer your product was especially sourced, so they took your word for it. That has now all but gone. The shopper now manages their own experience, defined by what they interact with virtually and physically. You have nowhere to hide.
This is a real wake-up call and the single most important change required is to look at your offer through the lens of your customers. Not your lens – their lens. What experience are they looking for? The emotional dimension such as smells, sights, excitement, touch, taste, tantalise.
Find the CX sweet spot
In order to engage shoppers each and every time, retailers must deliver a balanced experience that meets the rational, functional and emotional needs of the shopper. If you think of it through the lens of a shopper, the reasons to believe are what you are all about (merchandise), the experiences I have are when I shop and interact with you (operations) and what I think, feel and say is what I tell others in my community or with conversations (marketing) I have with you. Basically, you need to be sure you:
- Have a clear proposition and tell that story – why should I choose you over every other retailer that operates in your category? What makes you so special?
- Curate product differentiation – curate or bring together your stuff like no one else can. If it’s stuff I can buy elsewhere, what is it that makes it better to buy from you?
- Attract the type of customers you want so you can be sustainably profitable – stop being everything to everyone e.g. my target audience is anyone buying a gift. That’s rubbish and you know it. Be clear about who should, could or would buy from you and how you are going to engage with them to get them to come to you. More importantly, keep your finger on the pulse to understand how that audience is going to change.
- Pitch value not price – if I can buy it somewhere else for cheaper, what else do you offer that means I should choose you? E.g. you might have the best depth of range, best array of quality or more colours or exclusives.
- Connect with customers on their terms – learn that a customer likes to feel individual and important. Treat them with respect and have two-way conversation by talking with them instead of at them.
Our shopper’s world is fundamentally shifting and changing at a pace that they have never seen before. With so much information and so many options now being thrown at them, bundling those experiences to deliver the ‘right’ feeling will be the only way to cut through the noise. Encourage and excite your shoppers enough to come back again and again.
You know that feeling. You’ve had it yourself with the retailers you keep going back to.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou.
This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 744 June / July 2016