Last issue we talked about what experiential retail is, here’s how you can easily implement it
By Linda Cahan
A customer-experience expert secretly shops your store and reports on the experience. Then, she or he spends a day or two in your store observing customer behavior. That person can also conduct exit surveys of your customers to learn about their in-store experience. You learn how customers move through your store, what they’re experiencing, if they like and respect you and your team, and if they like your store, along with other important information. If you don’t have the budget for this type of expert, it may be time to do this yourself.
Anne-Marie Luthro (amlinsights.com) is a customer-experience pro. I checked out her website to see what she offers and distilled it to the basics, so you can do it yourself. (Or hire her.)
What is the light level of the store? Does it feel comfortable? How does the store smell?
Pretend you’re seeing your store from a customer’s point of view. Disregard why something hasn’t been taken care of or done properly. Just look at what is right now.
What do you see first, second and third? What message is each visual giving you?
Do any areas of the store feel good? Uncomfortable? Crowded? Disorganized? Dirty? Clean? Very appealing? Very boring or unappealing? Analyze each area and write down your impressions.
Are your signs informative? Easy to read? Are they clean and fresh or wilted and/or crinkled? Are there enough or too many?
If you choose not to hire a professional, ask a person unknown to your staff to do the same, including buying something. This can be a friend, a relative — anyone who is willing to do so for a nice dinner or a good percentage off products you sell.
Once you have processed the information about the customer journey and experience, develop a form your sales staff can use wherever they are standing or sitting. Have them track each customer as they come into the store and note:
- Do they stand in the doorway to look around before heading in a direction?
- Which way do they go? Down what aisle first?
Only track them as far as you can see them from where you’re standing.
The form can be an overhead floor plan, and your sales person can just draw a line showing how each customer moved through the store. Adding the date and time gives you extra information that can help you figure out your busier times.
After every salesperson does this for a week, you’ll have a good idea of how people are moving through your store and which are your “power” aisles.
Seasonal items go in the power aisles and they need to sell out before the season is over.
Next, turn your attention to what makes a shopping journey more memorable.
Sight, visuals and taste create a total sensory experience. Add music and scent to your store as well as the sense of touch. Visuals account for 80 percent of what people remember about a store. If they have a negative experience with a salesperson, that’s all they’ll remember — and they will share it with everyone.
People love to see something new. It makes them feel like they’re on top of things and have early access. It can make people feel special, which adds favorably to their experience.
Trader Joe’s has a See What’s New area in each of its stores. Almost everyone who shops there checks it out. There’s a strong sign above the shelving end cap to identify the area. It’s a different design in each store, as it hires local artists to personalize the signs to the local area. Consider adding a What’s New section to your store, and fill it without worrying whether the merchandise works together. You should also house the new merchandise where it belongs throughout your store.
Taste is another integral part of the shopping experience that can be easily implemented in your store. People remember more — and remember happily — when they are fed. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: a bite of chocolate or a small cookie can add immeasurably to their day. A sweet sweetens their experience. Any wrapped candy will do, but Hershey’s Kisses or wrapped mini Dove chocolates are always a welcome treat. Wrapped hard candy is fine, but stay away from the red and white peppermints. Most people will not take them. If you offer cookies, please have a water fountain or water cooler handy with paper cups.
Once in a shop in Gold Beach, Florida, I noticed a jukebox on a column. It said “free,” so I checked out the songs (mainly oldies), and punched in my favorite. There was no way I was going to leave until my song played! That bit of consumer behavior cost me $35 that I had no intention of spending when I walked in. What I did was very typical of many customers: I wanted to wait to hear my selection and, weirdly, felt a little obligation to be there. I have no memory of what I bought, but I remember wanting to hear my song. I watched faces light up around me as songs played. A jukebox is completely unexpected. If you are selling music systems to go with your spas, however, you may want to place the speakers for the juke box away from the areas you’re selling those systems.