Why the in-store customer experience still matters

Channel Assist director Alain Brissimitzakis looks at how technology and the human touch can work together to make bricks and mortar stores an exciting place for shoppers.
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With e-commerce booming, it is critical that bricks and mortar retailers remember that purchases aren’t a one-time interaction; stores need to reach out and engage with shoppers to create a unique experience and long-term relationship.

Ecommerce brands still recognise the importance of having a physical presence. Research by Hero shows that 67% of ecommerce brands that have received funding of over $6m have opened a physical store within the last 36 months. Retailers can look to gamify stores serving to blur the lines between retail and experience. Free Wi-Fi is now a given, and without it stores are immediately outdated. Shoppers are becoming less aware of the distinction between physical, online and m-commerce, wanting a seamless connection between them all.

Under these conditions, things such as loyalty apps can play an important role in introducing new ways to understand and engage with shoppers at specific locations. Click and collect also serves to further align the online and in-store relationship. Stores have a wonderful opportunity to engage with shoppers at a very physical level when it comes to the brand experience. For example, John Lewis is looking to create a certain vision for their stores, which includes sending their staff to theatre school for the day. This is a great way to bring brands to life in a retail environment.

At Nike Soho, they are presenting a multi-sport experience across a 55k-square-foot retail space. Shoppers can come in, try on basketball shoes and shoot hoops with in-store athletes – try doing that online.

Getting shoppers to actively engage with technology can provide benefits for the retailer and make the in-store experience more interesting. An excellent example of this comes via technology and live data company Ksubaka, which uses the language of games to transform the way brands and retailers engage shoppers to generate actionable insights. Their interactive screen tech provides unmatched media metrics, creating a highly monetisable media space for digital out-of-home advertising. Shoppers are engaged and happy and the retailer gets lots of useful data.

It is unlikely that human-to-human interaction can ever be 100% replaced. We want and need interpersonal engagement in a way that can support the emotive needs behind many purchases, particularly big-ticket items where people want to experience the product before they purchase. Inspired employees and sales associates play a key role in meeting this need, particularly when they are able to personalise the conversation on the shop floor.

There is so much value in that person who knows your name, what you like and what you need. That trust developed over a long-term relationship between a shopper and a store just cannot be replaced by a solely technological interaction. Think of how much more rewarding the purchase experience can be when you are being served by someone who can truly understand your needs, and can personalise that knowledge for you.

The knowledge element is so key here. To truly understand the product they are selling, promoters need to be completely immersed in the brand and product, whilst having the ability to engage with shoppers in-store. Data and insight then comes into play. At all times, promoters have access to a constant stream of data relating to a particular product, competitors and how a product is performing in-store. This data arms brand promoters with a superior level of knowledge to support their engagements with shoppers. Today’s shopper expects this as a minimum.

Technology partnered with a passion for their brand ensures that shoppers are greeted by a promoter that can offer them the kind of experience the ecommerce world can only dream of.

Alain Brissimitzakis is the director of Channel Assist.

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