An average consumer encounters the same or very similar product mix from retailer to retailer. Unintentionally, we have almost trained them not to expect anything special from their shopping experience. The retailer that does offer something beyond the ordinary shopping experience can score big points with shoppers. Do something unexpected to surprise and delight shoppers, and word will spread – probably quickly. So what is it that really makes consumers tick? I think it boils down to five main things.
For anyone who has grown up in the retail business, success was often tied to location, location, location. But physical address is only one facet of location. Consumers who shop at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers desire an easily accessible location (ingress/egress) and an entryway free of obstructions. For those shopping in a virtual environment, location and convenience translates to things such as
- Search engine optimization;
- Web access on mobile devices, tablets or desktop computers; and
- The URL itself and related URLs that fit consumer needs.
Whether in brick-and-mortar or virtual retail, “aisles” need to be arranged for ease of shopping. The path to purchase must be consistent with the needs of the consumer. In a virtual world, navigation can be custom developed based on specific shopper preferences. In brick-and-mortar settings, give thoughtful consideration to the user experience. Too often, retailers manage space based purely on logistics.
Retail atmosphere can make or break shopper loyalty. Capturing the imagination of shoppers is crucial. Certain retailers may offer no-frills, warehouse settings that fit perfectly with consumer needs, but these must be accompanied by low prices (and this works for some). Other retailers create atmospheres that stimulate more shopper senses during their visit. Consider the experience at Duane Reade's 40 Wall St. store versus Aldi. Neither is wrong, if it matches shopper needs.
Many independent retailers have hung their hats on the importance of customer service for decades. Truth be told, customer service is more than smiling associates with cheerful personalities and helpful attitudes. Customer service is delivered by telephone, Web interaction, through hours of operation, return policies, online “help” and any number of other interactions.
Pricing has become far more transparent with the arrival of consumer-friendly technology that allows comparison shopping based on price alone. But low prices do not necessarily translate into more sales. The example I like to use is a hamburger. You can purchase a hamburger from a fast food restaurant for a certain price point, knowing that you are sacrificing at least ambience. Serve that same burger with the assistance of a dietitian to guide consumption patterns, and many consumers will pay more.
What other differentiators do you feel are important to shoppers? How can retailers cost-justify an investment in factors such as these?
Dave Wendland is VP and co-owner of Hamacher Resource Group, a retail healthcare consultancy located near Milwaukee, Wis. He directs business development, product innovation and marketing communications activities for the company and has been instrumental in positioning HRG among the industry’s foremost thought leaders. You may contact him at (414) 431-5301 or learn more at Hamacher.com.