As the Coivd-19 Pandemic continues, the American consumer is wondering what will happen to the struggling economy, as well as, how the beloved brick and mortar retail therapy, they cherish, will recover. They desire the return of this viable source for necessities, health care products, and the entertainment “good feelings” that shopping evokes.
Retail industry insiders, economists, stand-alone-store owners, and shopping center administrators are conceding that the “New, Next, Normal”, post-Covid, in store activity, in a post-pandemic United States, must have evolved into a revitalized, consumer experience which transcends any previous on-site, activity, that had transpired.
What is the “New, Next Normal?
The prolonged effects of social isolation, and crisis spending, which was restricted to essentials-only purchases, has radically changed customer shopping patterns. Impulsive spending will be sharply curtailed, and a focus on price sensitivity will have a lasting, dominant effect on every shopper. The push that the virus placed on people to stay at home, and shop online, introduced a quick and convenient means of acquiring items, that eased stress and filled needs, with a modicum of effort.
These factors have changed the mind-set of today’s consumers, from Gen X, to Gen Z who love to blend digital experiences, and hands-on-in-store product involvement, and Millennial’s, and others who appreciate in store immediacy of purchase.
A somewhat muted passion for personal product selection and acquisition remains, and if encouraged, through a concentrated focus on customer service, and new shopping experiences, it will be rekindled, and spawn enormous growth and loyalty potential for retail stores and online.
Forging an Emotional Bond with Customers
Most consumers crave human interactions when they shop for merchandise. Having your online e-Commerce platform provide live chat support, with a picture and name of your representative, offers the kind of personal attention that your brick and mortar stores are known to provide, and is a triple win for the consumer, your site and your revenues.
Hiring and training a staff of personable, well-informed, confident, polite, and attentive employees who value every customer’s inquiry, and interest in your products and services, is essential to building a bridge to consumer ongoing loyalty. Placing consumer experience at the epicenter of live chat, and all interactions is essential.
Communicating with shoppers, and being a good listener to each person, is rewarding for everyone. It is not possible to truly assist someone if you have no idea of their goals and expectations. But when the chat ends, the work is just beginning. It is especially important to survey your customers. Make your own survey and ask them if their needs were met. Find out if the level of service expected was obtained, if they have any suggestions, recommendations, or simply general feedback. This information is critical to winning the sale, their hearts and overarching customer retention.
Having a well-designed survey available, both online, and in your brick and mortar store, allows your customer to feel that their input is both valuable and necessary, to ensure an incredibly positive shopping experience. The challenge retailer’s face is to carefully coordinate their online site upgrades, without losing loyal customers from their in-store environs; while offering experiences in-store, which are innovative and rachet up totally unexpected, even exciting exposure to new elements in this process.
Brick and Mortar – Post Covid – Experiential Retail
While your brick and mortar store is confined to a particular space, with built in limitations, and its own brand-centered configurations, today’s consumer deserves to feel the evolution of the shopping journey, which they receive with all the technological enhances of your online site. Happily, this reposition, and design of the in-store experience is being achieved in a uniquely fascinating and sensory-stimulating way, known as experiential retail.
Experiential retail is cutting edge commerce. The customer service that is offered is another level of concentrated focus, freedom, and engagement, affording each customer a unique, on brand activity. The store is artistically staged to allow the customer to try out the brand, touch, feel, and immerse themselves within the experience.
As an example, snapping Instagram or selfie pictures, of well designed, eye candy store interiors, and the products, which can be uploaded and shared online, along with feedback about the quality of your products, and their personal experiences. The feedback is shared online, and the whole philosophy is immersive, engaging all the senses, and it is uniquely personal for everyone.
Purchases are transacted on iPads or other connected devices, not cash registers. Boxes of products are open and ready for inspection. This experience exceeds all customer expectation, and is a pleasing event, not just a see and buy moment. A recent Forrester report revealed that 66% of consumers feel that a business which values their time, and experience in a store, is the most important thing a bricks and mortar store can do for them.
Making the Human Connection
In the second decade of the 21st Century, customers want to feel a connection with the brick and mortar stores they frequent. They expect these business and e-commerce sites to keep track of their purchase history and offer customized offers and options that reflect a knowledge of their purchases.
Interactive, online surveys or preference questionnaires, both online and in stores, will afford the opportunity to track customer preferences, offer the correct promotions, and build interactive relationships that do not jeopardize their privacy, but celebrate their relationship with your online and real time store.