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So WTF is Retail Customer Experience and Why Does it Matter?

Updated: Feb 28, 2023


Do you work in retail? I don’t mean only on ‘the shopfloor’ by the way!


You could be the COO, a District Manager, a Merchandiser, a Product Owner or part of the Finance team. Whatever function you are in this awesome industry:


So please, pay attention to the only thing that matters: Your customers!


You don’t need me to come in all sassy shouting about how the customer really does pay your salary – I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, right?!


So why is it then, that retail brands continue to offer uninspiring, lazy, bland customer experiences?


Especially in this modern day where the customer can buy anything, anywhere with that little computer in their pockets. You know?


Customer Experience matters more than ever before and I’m so happy you are here, right now reading this blog in 2023. I’m over the moon excited to walk you through what I consider some of the fundamentals in retail today and more importantly, how you can go about making the necessary changes that actually move the needle in your business!


So, if you are working in retail or a retail support function. Stick around friends!

Let’s get into this!


You might already understand the importance of delivering a great customer experience.


But it can be a challenge to ensure that your store teams are delivering the ideal service model…unless you creep on the CCTV and hire spies.


Which by the way, I do not recommend at all.


As a professional retail consultant, I provide brands with the strategies and tools you need to create a customer experience that is beneficial to both customers and store teams.


Let me tell you, I worked with a brand about 2 years ago (not dishing on this one because well…we had a disagreement and I didn't accept the assignment). The brand asked me to create a customer service program where I would specifically prescribe all of the narrative. As in, what to say, when to say it, what sentences should you say at the fitting rooms, how do we say goodbye etc etc.


It was a really tight brief with little room for any team member to add any of their own personality. Crazy huh?


Now, can you imagine someone literally telling you how to run your meetings? What to say at the introduction, what interventions you should be doing, what words to use if someone has a question…it’s nuts isn’t it? You wouldn’t be up for that?


So why on earth would we ever EVER ask our retail teams to be so incredibly copy/paste with service?

It. Doesn’t. Work.


This is why it is very important to gather as much information from the store teams as possible before you redesign a service strategy. If they are onboard and have been a part of the change…guess what? They will own it and make it a success!


My approach to customer experience design is direct, loads of fun, high energy and results-driven, making sure that your brand can truly care and deliver world class service to your customers (via an engaged, excited retail team)!


Retail Leaders, are you ready to take your business to the next level? If you haven't already, it's time to embrace the new age of retail and the need for excellent customer experiences.


In today's digital world, customers expect more from their shopping experience - from the convenience of online shopping to the personalised, engaging touch of a physical store.


Remember, the customer has chosen to visit your physical locations and you know that today people are so time-poor. So when a customer votes to walk into your store, well, that is a huge win! They are highly likely to buy.


Research shows that 65% of customers have already browsed your products online! And now is the time for your retail team to engage and convert!


The key to success with customer experience is to create an environment that allows or better still, encourages your retail teams to have time for a conversation.


That’s right!


In order for your retail customer experience to be top of the pops your teams need to have extremely efficient operations, communications, store planning etc etc so they are free to engage with customers!


How many times in the last few weeks have you seen retail teams busy with ‘doing stuff’ such as processing stock, re-pricing articles, moving products, completing paperwork, checking through lists on the ipad…they are doing all the things EXCEPT serving the flipping customer!


COME ON!


The retail customer experience is the only way to convert more of your browsers into buyers and to attain customer loyalty.


One of my favourite phrases that I share with my clients is “dwell time is sell time” so when your teams welcome a customer, make them feel comfortable and have an uplifting conversation, well you’re already selling!


Your retail staff become so confident and empowered to essentially grab the customer attention and have them stay in the store longer than they may have initially anticipated!


This is a win!


It is the key factor that separates successful retailers from those that struggle.


By investing in a great retail customer experience, you will create a memorable time for your for your customers.


How?


I will show you how to blend strategy (the curriculum) with emotions; because emotion is simply energy IN motion. It is the exchange of laughter, lightness, happiness and who doesn’t want to be around that?


It is attractive!


Look we’re not running tinder stores here, but if you know anything about marketing then you’ll know that attraction matters. This is not about looks or physicality by the way.


This is about your words, your body language, your storytelling abilities and all of the soft skills that no-one is coaching your team on!


Emphasising abilities around soft skills is a great way to show that you care about your teams and in turn, they will value the customers’ time.


A huge light bulb moment!


PING!


Great customer experiences will make it easier to build trust and a meaningful connection with customers. It is important to ensure that the store environment, staff and product selection is in tune with your customer needs.


Who has experienced this before:


You’re wandering around the stores on a sleepy Tuesday morning with your baby in the pram because, well, you needed to get out of the house! Or maybe you're strolling around with your Grandparents, getting them out for some air.


The store you visit are playing their own favourite playlist super loud and it’s really off-putting and inappropriate for the time of day and demographic of customer.


You’re not welcome there!

You’ve interrupted their party!


It has happened to me. More than once.


I didn’t stay, I didn’t buy.


I have forgotten more horror stories than I care to remember. I should really write a book. Anyway, I digress, let’s continue!


Your retail staff should be knowledgeable and able to provide helpful advice. They do not need to know all the features of all the products.


Nor do they need to know the depths about your brand history.


Look, no-one will tell you this, so allow me to share (with kindness and respect). The only people that truly truly care about all of the business and brand stuff; is the founder and maybe some of the leadership team.


Ok.


Now that’s done let’s get to what your retail teams care about.


Firstly, they want fair pay.


If you’re paying peanuts you might get some monkeys!

Just saying.


Secondly, they want to work in a place that helps them to develop as human beings.


Maybe you have come across some wellbeing initiatives or accredited certifications. That’s ok, it’s a good start but these are what I call ‘events’ it’s not the day to day things, you know?


Thirdly, they want their feedback and ideas to be heard.


Millennials and Gen Z have got used to seeing (& maybe being) huge influencers.


Their opinions are heard online, maybe last night your part-time staff member went viral on TikTok and generated thousands of pounds in affiliate marketing deals.


You don’t know. We simply don’t know.


If we asked more questions and listened to todays incredible workforce; can you imagine how amazing your customer experiences could be?! Mind blown!


I know what you’re thinking – todays workforce want it all for nothing.

We are where we are. Face it and make the best of it.


Your retail staff should also be able to explain the product benefits in detail, mixed with emotions and provide helpful tips to the customer.


Make it fun!


Keep in mind that every customer is different and the customer experience should be tailored.


In fact, it must be.


By creating a memorable and positive retail customer experience, you are setting your brand apart from competitors and showing customers that you are invested in their experience.


Retail Leaders, it's time to take your business to the next level and create the best customer experience today!


Retail customer experience in our modern world of retailing should look a little like this:


1. Your teams are genuinely curious about your customers visit (afterall they probably could have just bought online, right)?


2. Your teams must be well equipped with the softskills to hold an engaging conversation, ideally scattered with light humour to further build rapport


3. Your stores should be digitised when it come to operations, communications, stock counts and so on. Remember, retail teams can only serve when they have the time to do so


With the world of retailing rapidly changing and customers expecting more from their shopping experience, retail leaders and store management must focus on creating an engaging and enjoyable customer experience.


The key to delivering a great customer experience lies in giving your teams the time and resources to be genuinely curious about customers, engaging them in conversations, and equipping them with the right tools to make the customer shopping journey smoother and more enjoyable.


Your only role in retail is to win the hearts of the people walking through the door.


I really couldn’t give a hoot if you are the best scoring store for audits 3 years in a row.


This only tells me you are great at managing processes.

Which, is cool, ok?


But how were your NPS scores the last few days?


What conversations are you having daily to improve your teams knowledge and passion in their work?


These things really matter.


Your teams should have a good understanding of the customer’s needs and preferences, as well as the ability to interact with customers in an engaging and positive manner.


Humour is an important emotion in building rapport with customers, and your teams should be comfortable with lighthearted conversation.


In addition, your stores should be digitised to help streamline operations and communications, and to ensure accurate stock counts.


By setting your retail stores up for success in these areas you are freeing up the teams with real time to serve.


This allows your teams to focus on providing a better customer experience.


Ultimately, the best customer experience is one that leaves the customer feeling better than when they came in. The type of experience that they ponder over later in the day or tell their friend about over a coffee.


If a customer is made to laugh, given a helpful product demonstration, or presented with something they weren’t even looking for, then you know you’ve done your job really well.


Give your teams the power to engage customers in meaningful conversations.


You want your teams to act like they OWN their branch. They are the CEO of the store. Whatever you want to box this up as, just make sure they have a voice.


With the right tools and resources, your teams can create an experience that customers won’t forget.

How is that possible?

Well, it doesn’t take much effort to stand out from the sea of sameness today.


Lack lustre, boring service is out there in droves you guys!


YOU can outperform your competitors simply by driving customer experience.


So make sure to equip your teams with the skills and resources needed to make the customer experience as enjoyable and memorable as possible.


The rewards for doing so will be well worth it!


Hmmm rewards, tell me more Kayleigh!


You got it!


You will see an uplift in sales and all those lovely KPI’s around that such as UPT, Conversion, ATV. You will also see an immediate improvement in your NPS scores and you will see talent staying in your brand, because they love working in a place where they are heard, supported and rewarded!


Are you looking for a better way to measure the customer experience in your retail stores?


Retail leaders need to see REAL feedback from REAL customers in order to self manage and improve the in-store experience.


With the right customer experience measurement tools, retailers can make informed decisions that will have a lasting effect on their customers.


Gone are the days of relying on traditional mystery shopping methods.


Mystery shopping is a false representation of your retail store - the scripts given to shoppers are often too specific and do not provide true customer insight.


It’s very outdated and your teams know how to play that game!


They know who the shoppers are, they know that ‘normal customers don’t ask this question’ they literally play up for that shopper.


So please, let’s not pat ourselves on the back with all the green scores (because shhhhh...we all know that your brand retail service is sub-par most of the time)


I said what I said.

Look, we can only get better when we meet ourselves at the exact place we are at.


It’s time to move beyond mystery shopping and find a better way to measure customer experience.


So how can retailers measure customer experience?


First, it’s important to understand what makes a good customer experience.


It’s not just about talking and selling something.


It’s also about the overall atmosphere of the store, how attentive the staff are, how well stocked the shelves are, and how convenient the checkout process is.


To measure customer experience, retailers should look to customer feedback.


Ask customers what they like, what they don’t like, and what they would like to see improved. This could be done through surveys, comment cards, or even online reviews.


There are many platforms and providers out there. I’m happy to talk some options through with you from my first-hand experience of who does what.


This customer feedback can be used to identify any issues and make improvements, real-time! Your store teams will have the spotlight on them; all the good, bad and ugly.


A chance to show what they can do!


Retailers should also look to their own staff for feedback.


Ask them what they think of the customer experience and how it can be improved.


Involving staff in the process allows for an honest assessment of the store’s performance.


Finally, retailers should look to their competitors for inspiration.


See what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. However, don’t stick around too long. Watching from the sidelines keeps you distracted from your own goals so be sure to take a look but place focus on you/your teams.


By taking the time to get honest feedback from customers and staff, retailers can ensure that they are providing the best possible customer experience.


This will result in more loyal customers and more sales. It is that simple.


As a retail leader, you know how important it is to deliver a great customer experience. You know that when customers are satisfied, they will come back and tell their friends about their experience.


But what happens when retail customer experience goes horribly wrong?


In the digital age, one bad experience can quickly become a PR nightmare.


A customer unhappy with their retail experience can easily broadcast their dissatisfaction to millions of people on social media.


Earlier on we touched on the age of the influencer.


I hate to say it but your marketing teams are really up against it now with all these personal brands emerging and dominating social media. Your brand ads are not competing anymore.


Anyway, a poor experience can cause irreparable damage to your brand’s reputation, and you risk losing customers and potential customers. How you respond to this situation is very important.


Crisis management anyone?!


It is critical that retail leaders act now to ensure that customer experience is high on their agenda. By taking the time to evaluate the customer experience your brand provides, you can ensure that customers have the best possible experience when they shop with you.


First, consider the customer journey.


Make sure that it is easy for customers to find what they are looking for, and that they have the best possible experience while they shop. From the website browse to in-store checkout, every step of the customer journey should be as seamless and stress-free as possible.


Second, invest in customer service.


Make sure that your retail teams are knowledgeable, friendly, and able to provide a high level of service when customers need help.


Additionally, ensure that you have a customer service team available to address any issues or complaints.


Call centres must employ people who love to speak with people and genuinely care – which comes across in voice, tone, volume, pausing etc.


Finally, be proactive in addressing key customer feedback.


If a customer has a negative experience, reach out to them and make sure that you do something to make it right.


Showing customers that you are willing to correct mistakes goes a long way in (re)-building a strong, loyal customer base.


By focusing on delivering a great retail customer experience, you can ensure that customers come back and share their positive experiences with their friends and family.


This will help to protect your brand’s reputation, and will ensure that your business is future-proofed against any potential PR disasters.


In conclusion, it is clear that having a strong focus on customer experience can have a hugely positive impact on a business and on your teams.


Not only will it help to win more customers and retain staff, but it also allows you to stand out from the competition.


For real!


If you are looking for help on how to design and implement an outstanding customer experience across your stores, our services are available to help you achieve exactly this.


With our online trainings, in-person workshops, consults and retainers you can be sure to get the best out of your customer experience. Simply click this link to get straight through to our consulting services.


Looking for a complete CX re-design?

We can do that too!


Book your complimentary call today and start modernising your retail customer experience.


We'll have a chat about your current challenges and what you've already tried, we can scope out what success looks like for you and your business and if you feel YES let's do this, we get to work and make it happen!


Let’s lift the industry standards, get your people engaged in delivering world class service and really make a difference in our communities.


If you're still here - thank you for taking the time to read this.

I truly appreciate you!

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