For retailers looking to shake up the in-store customer experience status quo, Columbus, Ohio is the place to be. The New York Times refers to Columbus as the “Silicon Valley” of retail—a hub of innovation where brands test flashy, far-out concept stores in expansive retail environments.
It’s exciting to see leading brands break the mold in such grand fashion. But concept stores are big investments. Many retailers are hard-pressed to make basic upgrades, let alone create an experimental high-tech consumer playground.
If you’re wondering how on earth you’re supposed to compete with the big customer experience spenders, you’re asking the wrong question.
Here’s the right question: “How can we create a memorable customer experience in our stores?”
It doesn’t take a fortune to build customer loyalty. With reliable data and a retail laboratory of your own, you can get started transforming your in-store customer experience.
In-Store Customer Experience Innovation: The Path to Big Gains
For retailers of all sizes, customer experience innovation is not only possible but a matter of survival. Here are four budget-friendly steps you can take to bring innovative CX concepts to life and advance your business goals.
1. Consider fundamental CX improvements.
If you want to make the customer experience more personal and achieve cross-channel consistency, you don’t need to roll out drastic changes. Instead, focus on making use of your existing resources.
Start with your front-line employees (your greatest asset). You could direct them to offer a particular greeting, for example, or ask for each customer’s first name in the dressing room so they can follow up and assist. There are many types of sales-driving behaviors you can train for and test on a small scale to gauge their effectiveness.
If you have a ecommerce CRM system, you could give associates access (a relatively easy and inexpensive hack) so they can use past buying behavior to ramp up suggestive selling. Or they could use inventory data (another fairly easy hack) to offer “endless aisle” purchase options. Low-tech tests like these will reveal the potential value of investing in an in-store POS system.
2. Plan the pilot program.
Consider which store you’ll use as your CX innovation laboratory. You might choose a single store based on its location—maybe a representative city like Columbus—or decide to A/B test various in-store customer experience concepts across multiple stores. Each in-store team involved in the pilot program will need individualized training, which you can tweak before each new test or based on pilot measurement data (steps 3 and 4).
3. Make sure associates are executing correctly.
To understand the true impact of your pilot program, you need to be sure associates are demonstrating the right behaviors. A small mystery shopping program targeting your pilot store(s) will allow you to pinpoint lapses on the sales floor and any disconnect between your training program and the brand standard(s) being tested.
4. Measure the customer response.
Once you’re certain your in-store teams are executing properly, you’ll want to measure how customers feel about the new experience. For a pilot like this, you’ll need something timelier and more in-depth than a CSAT.
Suppose you’re testing the concept of more personalized attention in the dressing room. After identifying customers who tried on merchandise and made a purchase, you could conduct brief customer intercepts as they leave the store.
“Tell us about your experience. Were you asked for your name in the dressing room? Was it creepy and weird, or did it make you want to return? Does it fit our brand’s style? What else could we do to make you feel more valued as a customer?”
Not only will you get in-the-moment reactions to the new CX standards you’re testing, but you can probe for more information and come away with ideas that lead to even greater innovations.
What Matters Most Is the Customer Relationship You Build
You don’t have to dazzle customers with high-tech brilliance to earn their loyalty. In fact, front-line interactions are what matter most. Customers expect to be engaged by enthusiastic, knowledgeable associates on the sales floor; if that isn’t happening, no amount of expensive design elements or gadgetry can fill the void.
Want to learn how leading brands use exceptional customer service to drive sales in store and online? Download your free copy of “Using Customer Service to Drive Sales: A Practical Guide for Omnichannel Retailers.”