Retailers, like most humans, have short attention spans and are easily distracted when the next big thing, especially in technology, comes along.
Shiny-object syndrome can lead to a retailer’s demise.
Instead of using the latest developments in technology or social media just because they exist, retailers should improve the consumer experience by getting to know their consumers.
When retailers remap a store or change a layout, they begin by testing a handful of stores to gauge consumer feedback and make improvements prior to a nationwide rollout.
It’s exactly how Sam’s Club is testing a cashier-less and mobile-only payment experience, mentioned in my last column.
Is your company’s top goal to increase sales? Shouldn’t customers come first? Technology can add efficiency and lead to an increase in profit. But is this your motivation? If you don’t have customers, this proposition is out the window.
Let’s look at some ways to improve a consumer’s retail experience, both online and offline, creating a deeper relationship between store and consumer.
Know your audience. JC Penney’s CEO in 2012 decided to revamp stores to mimic the successful Apple Store models. This effort to target a millennial audience was a case of too much too soon. The idea was far ahead of where the brand’s customers were at the time. Retailers can’t drive growth on their terms. It must be on the consumer’s terms.
Testing 1,2,3. Technology makes a customer’s life better. No argument here. But before brands implement new tech updates, see if customers want it. A company shouldn’t upgrade technology for technology’s sake. Look at technology through the lens of shoppers’ eyes, and embrace tech that enhances your customer’s experience. As with the aforementioned Sam’s Club, test the waters before bombarding unsuspecting consumers with new tech advances.
Redefine success. Let go of quarter-to-quarter growth strategies and replace with a long-tail view. Like it or not, retail and online shopping intertwine. New metrics need to reflect that. Retail stores drive online shopping, and vice versa. It can be as simple as buying a product online via mobile app and picking up the product in-store. Sync marketing strategies for both. Work together, not separately.
There’s a fine line between authenticity and gimmicky. Retailers have become creative at getting customers to visit brick-and-mortar stores. In-store, Instagrammable experiences can appear artificial. Use technology when needed. Augmented reality and virtual reality sound intriguing, but do your customers know enough about the technology to want to interact with it? In the long run, what does it buy your brand? Above all, be authentic.
Stand for something. As a brand, what role do you play in your customers’ lives? A National Retail Federation study found almost 60% of consumers would quit shopping a favorite brand or retailer if they found out the company’s values didn't match their own. How do you pay it forward? Brands like Coyuchi, Everlane, Patagonia and The North Face offer consumers new items in exchange for recycling used products.
Do you immediately implement the latest technology — or do you familiarize yourself first and educate the consumer on benefits of use before making significant changes?