Right out of the gate this is going to be a touchy subject. Questioning the reality of a retailer’s in-store experience versus what the retailer thinks it is can cut close to the bone. After all, if your experience is different from what you perceive (or believe) it to be, it means there’s a disconnect between you, your store(s) and, potentially, your team as a whole.
The first issue here is something that most executives will always have to deal with: the idea that staff members tell you what you want to hear versus the sometimes more uncomfortable truth. And though that’s a challenge most people equate to corporate culture, it can easily be solved. When it comes to truth versus fiction, one must first answer the simple question of how the store and brand experience is measured. If the answer is “by feel” or “by what in-store staff tells us” then you need help—now.
But how does one measure sentiment? If sales are meeting quarterly targets, if customers seem pleasant while in-store, and reviews online seem to be within tolerable limits, then why would you not believe that your brand experience is anything but good, right? But the issue here is that there’s an inherent disconnect from your customer—not your customer base—your actual customer, each and every individual.
As mobility takes hold of every aspect of the shopping experience, you can leverage technology for far greater intimacy with every customer. The ability to garner information from online, in-store, and in-app purchases paired with highly personalized service based on single-user-profile data both creates and tells a much different story when it comes to customer satisfaction.
If your in-store staff had the ability to better engage a customer based on personal shopping habits, likes, dislikes, etc., and then add to that the ever-increasing data points from every visit—the measurability and accountability aspect grows exponentially. Now, pair that with pre- and post-sales interaction through online, or in-app to garner real-time feedback from the customer and you’ve now created a closed loop that’s measurable that keeps everyone honest.
The challenge here is that to fully understand your in-store experience, you have to look far past your brick-and-mortar establishments. Stores are no longer a silo that can sustain themselves on their own. Furthermore, treating your eCommerce division as a separate business unit that seemingly competes with in-store revenue is no longer an option (though it never should have been an option in the first place). Online, in-app, and in-store must be completely interconnected. The shopping habits of individuals no longer self-segment into a one-or-the-other ideal. They are one fluid brand experience that influences each channel equally.
When enabling the customer to fully engage by inviting them to participate in constructive feedback, while simultaneously creating a unique and highly customized shopping experience through a modern retail approach, the in-store experience takes care of itself. Additionally, the human aspect of in-store staff and how they are measured on their success becomes clear and empowers them to do a better and more consistent job. If they are afforded the ability to offer discounts, special offers, and know who as an individual they are assisting in-store, their ability to become a concierge as opposed to a “clerk” suddenly changes the playing field.
In short, the biggest factor for success here is always going to be the magical place where customer experience and business intelligence meet—a place that creates an ecosystem where everyone is accounted for on a personal level: customers and staff alike.
In the new era of all-connected-all-the-time, there is a perfect opportunity to become the store that you have always dreamed of being—and perhaps even more. Knowing your customer as an individual is the Holy Grail … now, all you have to do is choose wisely.