By the end of 2020, 81% of retailers hope to have unified commerce platforms to enhance their omnichannel experiences. In-store customer engagement through relevant personalization will continue to be the key to attracting and retaining business. One study found that customer identification is the top engagement priority for 62% of retailers, and 83% plan to use suggestive selling based on three-year purchase history.
How we shop has changed drastically over the past few decades. Today’s consumer is less likely to window shop the malls, but they’re more likely to begin a shopping trip using digital tools. The digital realm has largely reshaped customer expectations, placing more pressure on store owners to anticipate their shoppers’ needs and provide the convenience, personalization, and quality experience for which they are looking. While some shoppers may believe that the best prices are online, they still prefer the personalized experience of the physical store environment.
U.S. retailers lost $41 billion in business due to poor customer service and engagement, according to a survey by NewVoiceMedia. Retailers are spending bundles of money to convince shoppers to buy their products, but failing to handle these prospects carefully at the point of sale results in lost sales, reduced repeat business, and wasted marketing investment.
Instead, retailers must find a way to connect with every individual walking through their doors. Consultants say in-store engagement is largely driven by: Price (81%), Quality (80%), and Convenience (55%). Loyalty is the natural byproduct of: Likability (86%) and Trust (83%). In-store customer engagement is still the pathway to sales and worth the focus of your marketing strategies for 2020.
How In Store Engagement Drives Retail Purchase Decisions
We know that in-store engagement and consumer experience leads to sales, but exactly how does this feel-good vibe translate into immediate sales? Why does an engaged customer spend more and buy more often? Here are a few reasons why in-store customer engagement works:
Engagement Uses Emotion to Drive Purchasing Decisions
Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman posits that 95% of all purchasing decisions are subconscious. Consumers often act in ways that are contradictory. For instance, what consumers intend and think they want walking into the store doesn’t always match their behavior or final purchasing decisions, he explains. Undoubtedly, anxious, depressed, stressed, or rushed shoppers make different decisions in the moment than they might on another happier, more relaxed day. Shoppers can be influenced by face-to-face appeals from persuasive sales professionals, the pressure of groupthink in an aisle with too many choices, the type of music playing, appeals to their five senses, or a myriad of other factors. Translating scientific data from neuro-imaging techniques into more rewarding in-store experiences is an art in itself, but there’s no doubt there is a link from the emotions to the cash register.
Engagement Offers an Experience
Retailers are pulling out all the stops to get foot traffic and maintain their share over eCommerce. By offering shoppers an experience, what was once considered a chore is now more exciting. Shoppers at Target indulge in a Starbucks coffee before taking their journeys. Tommy Bahama shoppers finish their trip with a meal. Costco offers guests product samples. Nike, Nordstrom, REI, and countless others offer engaging, interactive experiences to make their stores destinations for fun.
Engagement Allows Customers to Try Before They Buy
Consumers typically like to conduct basic brand, product, price, and retailer searches at home to save themselves time. Yet, according to a survey of more than 16,000 consumers, 82% of consumers are more inclined to purchase after seeing, holding, or demoing products in-store.
Knowing this, tracking interaction with in-store displays becomes an important facet of an in-store customer engagement strategy. Gathering insight into where, when, how, and which customers are interacting with the product helps marketers understand how to create stronger personal connections. The best environments encourage product engagement, paired with associates who can add a personal human touch to the brand.
Engagement Becomes a Platform for Brand Personality
“The in-store experience gives retailers the chance to express their vision, values, and points of view. This resonates with consumers who are looking for a more thoughtful purchasing experience,” according to CMO. A brand’s personality is more than a laundry list of traits related to product design and development; it must include core values and messaging that influence how it is represented in the world through digital experiences and retail environments. All the most successful brands go beyond selling features and sell a lifestyle. People who shop based on lifestyle have high brand loyalty and affinity.
Engagement Leads to Loyalty
In-store engagement makes customers feel valued—which, in turn, makes them want to give a little something back. Incentivizing customers creates a sense of consumer gratitude that drives sales. In 1976, sociologist Philip Kunz conducted an experiment where he mailed a handwritten Christmas card with a family photograph to 600 random strangers; despite not knowing him, almost 200 strangers sent him a card back. In the consumer sphere, the possibilities are endless. Maybe it’s a smile and friendly “hello” at the door. Maybe it’s the mint delivered with the restaurant bill. Maybe it’s VIP treatment with free valet parking for all shoppers or early shopping hours for the big spenders. Giving a little goes a long way in creating a good customer experience—and one that is conducive to buying. Reward programs are one of the most common ways to create a pleasant customer experience as they engage shoppers along the entire path to purchase and reward them for their participation.
Ready to Engage Consumers?
In addition to sufficient staffing and training, mobile represents a fast-growing opportunity for better in-store customer engagement. More than two-thirds of Gen Z shoppers prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, but digital tools remain beloved. Similarly, a quarter of Millennials are “fully engaged customers” whose engagement is highly dependent on technology. Enabling location targeting has led to better customer insights and higher engagement for 87% of mobile marketers. When offers are personalized and targeted in such a way, the natural trends follow—higher engagement, revenue, and conversions. Retail gamification is another way stores are using mobile to incorporate incentives to influence specific purchasing behaviors.
In addition to sufficient staffing and training, mobile represents a fast-growing opportunity for better in-store customer engagement.
Shopkick offers a trending way to engage customers in-store. Mobile users nearby are encouraged to visit stores offering Shopkick rewards points—called “kicks”—which are later redeemed for gift cards. These points are amassed by entering partnering retailers and interacting with partnering brands. Interactions may include locating, scanning, and purchasing certain items in-store, as well as watching branded videos and flipping through look-books. Through Shopkick’s innovative gamification platform, shopping is more like a treasure hunt, with reward opportunities around every corner. The increase in spontaneous purchases provides evidence of shopper engagement. For instance, in one campaign for a leading coffee brand, 66% of k-cup sales were to new customers and 42% of those sales were incremental. Engagement will continue to evolve into 2020 and beyond, but those retailers who harness the latest digital tools will be the ones to survive.
Want more ideas for in-store customer engagement? Check out what Shopkick has done for our partners. Contact us to learn how easy it is to get started building brand-specific content for loyal Shopkickers!
Image courtesy of michaeljung