In our latest webinar, Blocking Out the Noise: Harnessing In-Store Experience Trends to Deliver Results that Last, we chatted with service design expert and Lowe’s alum Rebecca Horton about three trends worth every retailer's undivided attention: the shrinking store, the digitally savvy workforce and social storytelling. If any of those topics are news to you, read on for the high-level takeaways from our conversation, and be sure to catch the full webinar at your convenience here.
Takeaway #1: A strong operational foundation is crucial
In-store experience trends like augmented reality or digital signage are buzzy, but is it worth the trouble to experiment? It’s easier when the trendy technology you want to test matches up with the in-store and online shopping experience customers already receive. That comes from being aligned with your customer from the inside of your ops strategy out.
What you’re getting right operationally will dictate the success of capitalizing on trends. For instance, Sephora’s AR app for trying out looks matches the consistent, playful free sample experience their customers have already come to expect online and in-store.
What a strong operational foundation looks like:
- Free from technical debt in its systems and tools (Technical debt: not being able to swiftly adapt to trends because your tools have trapped you)
- Driven by data, experimentation and adaptability from the top down
- Invested in a 21st-century tech stack
- Gives IT a seat at the table
- Empowers associates to change outcomes on the shop floor with better communication tools
Takeaway #2: Your store experience should complement your e-commerce, not compete with it
Sales rarely happen with a single touchpoint. Allow customers to ‘try on’ or ‘test out’ product without an expectation that they’ll immediately convert, and have systems in place to reengage them once they interact with you again elsewhere.
After all, 95 percent of purchase decisions are subconscious, writes Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman. It might take more than a few touchpoints before a customer is ready to convert, and it’s possible your store won’t be the last stop.
Ensure that associates aren’t pitted against your e-commerce efforts, but rather see themselves as crucial assets at each touchpoint whether on- or off-line.
Using tech that credits store associates when their influence helps secure an online purchase is a simple way to provide customers with convenience, ensuring that associates aren’t pitted against your e-commerce efforts but see themselves as crucial assets in each final touchpoint.
Takeaway #3: Empower your store associates with tech
Your associates need tools like in-store wifi and technology in hand to better serve customers. Implement a strategy for workforce tech training that ensures all staff are regularly brought up-to-date on new technologies impacting your store and consider bringing them into a brainstorm discussion about how to fully leverage them.
Good news! It doesn’t have to be super fancy: REI uses headsets to empower associates to communicate with each other across the floor to facilitate seamless handoffs of customers between store sections. Another easy step could be installing a foot traffic tracking tool across key transition points to help you more dynamically staff your store in its busiest and slowest moments.
Takeaway #4: Be your own trend hunter
Data you’ve been gathering about customer transactions and foot traffic volume already contain a wealth of information about your store experience — no data science team or outside consultants needed. Are you paying attention to foot traffic demand? Are you making data about staff-to-customer ratios the source of truth in all staffing conversations? Start with the data you already have and make a habit of regular trend check-ins with your team.
Outside of your own brand and the usual conference circuit, you can find a wealth of customer service design inspiration in a simple consumer trend research trip:
- Explore a less-obvious city like Phoenix or Atlanta (not NYC)
- Pick a mix of location types to visit (retail, coworking, food & beverage, services, hospitality)
- Make observation the goal. Plan to spend 2-3 hours per location. Take copious notes.
- Also consider studying/shadowing influencers like Emily Henderson from Target