The Retail Experience is Broken. Agree or Disagree?

What if I told you the retail experience is broken? Most people go into defense mode and tell me all the reasons retail and especially the in-store experience are still important.

Let me be clear, I fully agree on the importance. But in my opinion very few retailers are meeting or exceeding customer expectations along the path to purchase.

Inventory breakdown

A few weeks ago I went into one of my favorite stores. I had a pretty good idea of the pants I wanted. I made my decision on size and color. And then I couldn’t find my size in that color. I approached a sales rep who told me I’m not sure if we have any. If it’s not on the shelf then probably not.” Neither of us had a way to look into their inventory information and I was unable to order online to be drop shipped to my house later on. I left the store empty handed.

Online to in-store disconnect

The week before Christmas I was on a mad hunt for a few last minute gifts. I started researching online and found two retailers that carried the musical ballerina jewelry box I was looking for. I could have ordered online but I was worried it wouldn’t ship in time and I wanted to see the quality first hand.

The first retailer showed the items online but didn’t carry anything in-store. Not wanting to make the same mistake again, I double checked the second retailer’s website. Unable to determine if they carried the item in-store or not I noted they were open until seven and gave them a call. They had them. And were actually open until nine.

The unbroken experience

  1. Understand your customer and tailor the experience to them. Try to step into their shoes and go through the journey from end to end. What pain points do they feel? Where is there opportunity to delight them? If you refuse to remain status quo you will find ways to create better experiences.
  2. Give access to as much information as possible. This is especially true with high consideration products. Information can range from store hours to pricing and inventory to lifestyle marketing, product specifications or reviews. Educating your customer builds confidence and speeds up their decision making.
  3. Be consistent across channels. Channels can blur and customers will often cross back and forth between online and in-store. It’s important to be able to provide the same products online and in-store even if it’s with virtual SKUs to be shipped directly to the customer. A disconnect in information can cause a lack of confidence in your brand.
  4. Let your customers shop the way they want to. It could be online or in-store or even online while they are in your store. It could be self-served on a mobile app or with a sales assist tablet. Regardless of where they purchase or how they got there, it’s important to be there when they make the decision.

Want to learn more about redefining retail? Check out what we’re up to at NRF.