Friction is the biggest obstacle to a positive customer experience in retail. Whether it’s waiting in line at the cash register or getting lost in the aisles, struggling to find a salesperson, or discovering your order isn’t ready for pickup, customers feel frustrated and annoyed by these moments and are ultimately unlikely to return to retail stores the more they occur.
With retail innovations like automation and rewards, store owners have the opportunity to reduce friction and improve customer experience across the board. Alleviating these challenges can have significant positive impacts on sales, customer satisfaction rates, and overall revenue. In a recent study of 15 enterprise retail leaders, NTT DATA Solutions found that those who prioritized reducing customer friction achieved a 48% improvement in revenue growth and a 45% improvement in net income compared to those with poor friction ratings. The following four strategies will help you replace friction-filled experiences with those that are personalized, exciting, and positive.
#1: Prioritize Speed And Convenience
Most brick-and-mortar stores are designed to strategically move customers past as many products as possible in order to get what they came for. That impulse-buy trapping strategy is quickly falling out of favor with audiences who are accustomed to online convenience and next-day shipping. As seen in the buy-online-pickup-in-store model, speed should really be prioritized above all else. Additional sales, surprisingly, are positively affected as a result.
Streamline Store Layouts
It’s time to rethink the classic milk-and-eggs strategy, where retailers put the most crucial items at the back corners of the store. Innovative store locations are putting must-have items (like the BOPIS station) right up front so customers can find what they need quickly and easily. Surprisingly, customers still end up making plenty of add-on purchases before they find their way out the door—so it pays to make things quick and efficient.
Introduce Frictionless Checkout
Checkout lines are some of the most annoying staples of CPG stores—so certain players are starting to innovate without cash registers at all. Amazon Go store locations utilize machine learning and computer vision to make convenience stores 100% more convenient. If frictionless checkout isn’t in your immediate future, consider increasing staffing at checkout to relieve pressure and improve wait times.
Optimize the BOPIS Experience
According to the same report from NTT DATA Services, 50% of surveyed stores couldn’t fulfill a same-day BOPIS order, and only 33% could fulfill an order within one hour. These are immediate opportunities to reduce friction and improve customer experience. By investing in automation and improving stocking logistics, stores can ensure that the items being ordered are in stock and ready to pick up in a timeframe that meets (or exceeds) customer expectations.
#2: Improve Omnichannel Consistency
NTT Data Systems found that a significant number of retail leaders fell behind in the area of online ordering. The worst sites required customers to re-enter processing information multiple times and complete 25% more steps before checkout. Your goal should be to create a seamless online experience that remains consistent with the convenient experience you provide in stores. That way, customers get a far more positive omnichannel experience from your brand and are more likely to offer their loyalty.
According to the same report, 26% of surveyed retailers provided very different experiences between their online and physical locations. If this sounds like an issue for your company, consider implementing the following strategies:
- Invest in an updated website. Too many retail sites are cluttered, clunky, and slow to load—all of which contribute to customer frustration and cart abandonment. Investing in updated eCommerce strategies and a streamlined sitemap will do wonders for improving customer satisfaction scores and increasing online sales.
- Make returns and exchanges easier. One of the biggest perks of ordering from an eCommerce giant like Amazon is the speed and efficiency of returns and exchanges. While your business may not be able to reach the heights of speed at Amazon, you can certainly make returns easier with generous policies and convenient in-store options.
- Resolve billing problems quickly. A report on enterprise fashion brands found that problems with billing, multiple charges, and trouble resolving credit card issues ranked high on the list of customer complaints. You should aim to make your online bill pay system as smooth as possible to avoid these high-tension moments.
#3: Revolutionize Staff Training
Believe it or not, staff interactions (or lack thereof) often produce the highest volume of friction-filled moments for customers in retail stores. All too often, it’s the sheer lack of adequate staffing that leads to customer annoyance and refusal to return. Increasing staff numbers at high-traffic times can significantly improve customer satisfaction scores. The rest of the time, improvements in retail technology and staff training can ensure that every customer need is met in a more-than-satisfactory manner.
Increase Automated Tools
Well-equipped retail apps offer customers the opportunity to carry a store associate in their pocket. From in-store mobile navigation to digital store maps and mobile price checks, these automated tools can make a customer’s path to purchase much quicker and easier. Try implementing some of these automated tools in your stores, or experiment with beacon technology and digital store map kiosks to help customers get what they need.
Experiment With Mobile Registers
In lieu of frictionless checkout, many major retailers are launching teams of mobile registers—staff members who roam the aisles and can complete purchases directly from the shelves. This is a particularly timely solution for the months leading up to the holiday season, where frantic shoppers are looking for any way to avoid lines. Advertise your new mobile register offering, and you’ll likely snag a few desperate time-conscious shoppers.
Prioritize Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution training materials are ever-evolving for staff members at retail stores—but they’re even more important now in the age of instant gratification. Customers expect conflicts to be resolved swiftly and courteously, and to be offered some form of compensation in return for their trouble. By offering plenty of staff members and training those employees on proper conflict resolution techniques, you’ll go a long way toward ameliorating and pleasing disgruntled customers.
#4: Create Innovative Experiences
Reducing customer friction is only half the battle when it comes to improving customer experience in retail. After you’ve created a truly seamless experience, customers still expect more. They’re looking for an experience—a memory—that will help them feel aligned with your brand. Innovative retail experiences create brand advocates. And through the omnipresence of social media, brand advocates are what will improve your sales the most.
Launch Experiential Concepts
Experiential retail stores are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. They’re exciting, new, and perfectly Instagrammable. Experiential concepts like the House of Vans in London or the Nike House of Innovation in New York offer customers exactly what they’re looking for: an attraction, and not just a retail store. Try launching a pop-up experiential concept to see how much buzz your brand can generate.
Personalize Your Marketing
Go beyond birthday coupon emails and offer your customers a personalized marketing experience backed by the latest mobile technology. One study found that personalized customer loyalty programs brought a 71% satisfaction rate and brought in 2.7 times more members than those that weren’t highly personalized. These strategies allow you to connect directly with your most loyal customers—those who opt-in because they want more from your brand.
Offer Truly Unique Rewards
A powerful rewards program can help beef up your marketing strategy and offer customers high-value rewards that don’t rely on slashing prices. With a third party app like Shopkick, you can reward customers for going on adventures in your stores and opting into targeted advertising experiences. Shopkick rewards program partnerships often see impressive ROI’s and a significant
By reducing friction in your retail stores and offering customers positive experiences in exchange, you’ll solidify their loyalty and provide an experience they’ll want to talk about online and in person. This is the most effective way to holistically improve customer experience in retail, and it’s a powerful way to increase revenue as a result. With the four strategies above, you’ll be well equipped to tackle the challenges of today’s retail environment and provide an experience that customers will appreciate.
Shopkick is an innovative retail rewards app that’s changing the way shoppers, retailers, and brands think about everyday errands. Our partners use Shopkick to provide uber-valuable rewards to their customers and increase market share, sales, and revenues as a result. Contact us to learn more about how an app like Shopkick can help you improve the customer experience in retail.