Customer expectations for convenience and competitive prices are forever changed with the rise of e-commerce. While there are innate challenges, there are also many opportunities to excel in this changing retail landscape. According to research recently conducted by Pew Research Center, 63% of Americans prefer brick and mortar over online retail. As such, the retail industry’s current evolution gives brick and mortar retailers new opportunities to shine in relation to their virtual counterpart.
To meet changing customer expectations, retailers need to take a truly holistic look at the full customer journey. This process involves many parts, including finding the gaps that may affect the path to purchase. A good starting place are the sometimes-overlooked aspects of the in-store environment such as empowering store associates, managing queues and traffic flow in real time, automating queue-related functions, and maximizing the opportunities to capture impulse sales. These are some of the inconspicuous or at least under-emphasized aspects of retail success in today’s world.
With e-commerce comes almost endless shopping options available to consumers. Even while they might prefer shopping in-store, it’s easy and enticing to ditch in-store trips to save money and time by shopping online. Therefore, it is more important than ever to make in-store retail visits a positive, valuable experience to customers. This boils down to understanding customer expectations, the performance of in-store practices, and how to anticipate customer needs.
To meet the new age of customer expectations, retailers face a number of challenges to master the in-store experience as it relates to queuing and customer flow. A key shift in retail is the consumer demand for the ‘whole product’—the integration of digital retail shopping options along with customer service excellence and a unique in-person experience. This combined expectation for an in-store experience that rivals that of online shopping requires a holistic approach. With online shopping, consumers are in control. In store, there are many variables they cannot control.
One example of bringing control to the in-store experience is through virtual queuing. By diverting physical queues to virtual ones using virtual queuing technology, retailers can collect customer data online, free customers to continue to shop while they wait, and anticipate customer needs to deliver a superior retail experience.
Knowing how customers shop and where they abandon the in-store experience is key to knowing how and where to improve. Tools such as footfall analytics allow retailers to adopt a data-driven approach that optimizes the in-store experience by analyzing important factors that contribute to purchase, such as wait time, cashier utilization, and customer flow. By taking a birds eye view of the key stages of the customer journey, analytics tools make it possible to discover new opportunities while optimizing existing strategies.
With more tools available, retailers are now able to think proactively. Footfall analytics provides insight to help retailers predict and maintain a real-time pulse on the flow of customers. They also make it possible to know when wait times are approaching pre-set limits, when dressing rooms are getting overcrowded, when an influx of customers arrive, and when staff may need to be diverted to address backups wherever they might occur.
With such rapidly changing customer expectations, it is key to listen and respond to what your customers are saying. Customer feedback systems, such as digital displays that allow customers to indicate a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment towards a particular prompt, allow retailers to collect data on parts of the customer journey that are performing well, and identify where to improve.
There are many existing solutions to help your retail business thrive amidst changing consumer expectations.
Our latest retail guide, Mastering the In-Store Experience, covers the core ways your brick and mortar business can outshine e-commerce during the retail industry’s latest evolution. These include insights, information, and solutions that take a truly holistic approach to decreasing real and perceived wait times, driving impulse sales at checkout, and optimizing service delivery to ultimately increase conversion rates.