People are shopping online now more than in stores. What does that mean for retail?
Shoppers are willing to wait a few days for their purchase in exchange for convenience. But is it really about convenience? I suggest we need to reframe convenience into what the desired customer experience is.
The over-whelming majority of my shopping is done online. I buy my groceries online. I order clothes, shoes, books, and gifts online. If I have to stand in line to pay for clothes, I look up the item online. If I can buy it online before I move in the lineup, I do, and drop the items on the shelf. Most recently, if the store staff become overwhelmingly pushy, I leave and shop online.
In each of those circumstances, I am choosing online shopping for different reasons. If the physical stores understood the desired customer experience, they would get my repeat business and loyalty.
Forbes predicts: “Physical retail will be less about facilitating the pickup of a product and more about providing unique experiences. Frank shared an example where you imagine yourself as a customer walking into a Nordstrom and using augmented reality to try on clothing in a virtual representation of the wedding you’re attending next week. Retailers will win by knowing their customers better than their competitors and providing differentiated experiences. The key, however, will be making the experience so immersive that the customer wants to come back, instead of just a ‘cool’, novel feature that is only tried once.”
How retailers are committing suicide is by believing they know and can impose the right experience on the customer. For example, shopping for scented candles or scented oils is an in store experience. You have me because I want to try the scents, experience how they could be part of my home. I am not going to go online unless it is to reorder something I already have. I am coming into your store with a vision in my head of how I want that experience to go. It will be relaxing. It will be creative. It definitely will be ruined if you follow me around the store and constantly ask me if you can help me, if I’ve heard what the specials are, and if I need a bag. Once I have picked up the product and I am heading to the til to pay, do not use this as an opportunity to continue telling me the features of the product. Once the deal is done, stop selling. While those are all wonderful offers of help and customer service, they have nothing to do with the reason I am there. In fact, they are deliberately interfering with why I’m there.
Retailers need to understand two eternal rules: know your customer and what they want. And the customer is always right.