24 September 2020
24 September 2020
The last few years have seen a radical change in the way consumers think about brick-and-mortar shopping.
The rapid growth of digital and mobile technologies have given shoppers the power to buy from wherever they are on their smartphones.
And in 2020, with lockdowns and social distancing measures limiting our movements and interactions with strangers, they are even more inclined to shop from the comfort of their homes.
Retailers must now work harder than ever to provide the unique, seamless and safe in-store experience their shoppers expect in order to increase retail sales.
However, the main thing that holds a retailer back in their efforts is poor in-store execution. When brand standards are not upheld, customer experience suffers, leading to fewer in-store conversions.
Here are 3 issues that arise when in-store execution isn't perfect, and how to stop them from happening:
HQ regularly sends visual merchandising guidelines and marketing and promotional strategies out to stores - standards which are set to ensure a consistent, high-quality customer experience across the store network.
Every store is trying its best, but with fewer staff on the rota and more tasks to complete, store teams have a heavier workload than ever post-COVID-19. As a result, brand standards aren’t always being properly monitored and inevitably slip.
This is a major problem, as the image a customer gets from one of your stores, be it positive or negative, will impact their perception of your brand and determine all future purchasing decisions.
Shoppers today have an overwhelming amount of choice, so if they’ve had a disappointing experience, they might never go back to that store. They might even tell their friends about the bad experience so that they stop shopping there, too.
And the stakes are even higher in the era of COVID-19. Many people are still reluctant to leave their homes, and if they do decide to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, they should be rewarded with a stellar in-store experience. Anything less than perfection is no longer worth it.
To provide a consistent experience, retailers must ensure that the appearance of all their stores is harmonized, so that they're instantly recognizable no matter where the store is. To achieve this, retailers need to have a real-time overview of compliance across the store network in order to nip any problems in the bud and ensure perfect in-store execution of visual merchandising guidelines.
Picture this. You walk past a store and see a really nice dress in the window. You weren’t planning on doing any shopping, but you really like that dress so you walk into the store. The store can only allow a certain number of shoppers inside at once to observe social distancing, so you’ve probably had to stand in line for a while.
Unfortunately, when you enter the store you can’t find the dress anywhere. You ask one of the sales associates, but she has no idea where it is. This wasn’t the experience you were expecting, so you walk out empty-handed, your time wasted.
Chances are, you weren't the only one who had the same experience that day.
If customers can’t find the products they're looking for, they get frustrated and leave. Retailers spend time and money creating visual merchandising displays to drive store traffic and trigger impulse buys. If the strategy disseminated to stores is not executed exactly as the visual merchandiser intended, it’s all for nothing.
This has become particularly important to shoppers in 2020, as they are now eager to keep themselves and others safe by spending as little time in-store as possible. Where in the past the aim was to keep customers in-store to increase their basket size, now the emphasis needs to be placed on upholding health and safety measures and keeping stores organized and easy to navigate.
Consumers expect more from brick-and-mortar stores, with an estimated 68% of shoppers saying they expect their online experience to be duplicated in store. Not only do they expect a great shopping experience, they want it to be consistent across online and offline channels.
However, only 22% of shoppers claim their cross-channel shopping experience is harmonized.
Consumers don’t see online and in-store as separate channels. They go into stores to see, touch and try on products and then go online to buy them, and vice versa - to them, it’s all part of the same process. All forms of shopping should be interconnected and easy to move between.
But poor in-store execution leads to disparities between channels that damage your brand image. It’s very easy to update a product price on your website, but it’s another story to make sure it has been updated across your entire store network.
And when the information across channels doesn’t match up - for example if a customer sees a promotion online but can't find it in-store - you’ve lost a sale and lost credibility.
The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to make it easy for sales associates to know exactly what they have to do and monitor what’s going on at store level so that issues can be easily corrected.
How can retailers reduce the skyrocketing cost of operating physical stores in 2020 - without sacrificing the quality of in-store execution and customer experience?
Download this free Ebook to learn how to use tech to help each store do more with less.
This article was originally published in November 2017, and has been updated for relevance and clarity.
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