A day as professional shoppers – our customer experience
Recently we embarked on a professional shopping spree. Every now and again we go out to see how retail is evolving. What’s new, what’s disappearing, what are the trends and how is the shopping experience for customers changing. Naturally the question we try to answer is ‘how do our products (or what products) fit in this ever changing retail landscape?’.
Two teams spread over two days (a week day and a weekend day) took the time to visit shops over the whole spectrum of city centre retail. Covering everything from multinational warehouses (Zara, Primark), flagship stores (Apple) to local retailers and small luxurious shops on the most expensive shopping promenades of the Hague. We also took the opportunity to visit a relatively new online to offline shop (Coolblue).
This blogpost features the experiences of one of those teams. We asked Thorwald and Lars to describe some highlights of their day as professional shoppers.
‘Customer experience’ is gaining traction
This has been a very valuable and informative day. It taught me that ‘customer experience’ is really gaining traction. But communicating the added experience to the customer is where it’s lacking. In most cases it was only due to our ‘professional shopper attitude’ that we learned that we could do more at certain retail locations. Two examples out of the many we encountered that day.
Take the Levi’s store for instance. There is a huge T-shirt press in the store. A big touch screen lets you add your name or initials and change the color of the Levi’s Bat. Printing that Shirt only takes a couple of minutes. Really cool in my opinion. There where indicators that this custom print was available. But it was only because I noticed the printer and asked an employee what the deal was that I got the full picture.
More or less the same thing happened in Runnersworld. A shop dedicated to running. They sell everything from high end shoes to nutritious running pastes. One of their great customer experiences is a track in front of a video wall with cameras that analyse your stance while running. It’s a great set up that really attracts customers willing to go for premium products.
Recently they installed a pedestal in front of the track. On the pedestal a new product is displayed every few weeks. When you pick up that product a special video starts playing on the video wall. But nowhere on or near the pedestal is there any indication that you should lift up the product so that the product video will start playing. You can also scan certain products that have a barcode label attached. Again a video start to play with special features, or athletes who promote the product.
Unfortunately these labels don’t tell you what you can expect. So most customers take them for price tags you can scan yourself, much like in supermarkets. An oddly placed cooling fan didn’t do a lot for the set-up either.
All in all these shops really went above and beyond to create added value for people willing to shop brick and mortar instead of online. Now it’s just a matter of letting the customers know (even better).
Coolblue was a great exception. Coolblue is one of Holland’s biggest online stores. They mainly sell electronics. In the last two years they’ve opened several big offline shops. Giving their customers the chance to see, try and feel products in real life.
Every product is displayed in such a way that it communicates ‘touch me’.
For instance they have several sound proof glass rooms where you can connect your own device and play your own music through many different speaker brands. All without the need for a store employee to help you out. Naturally those do walk around to help and inform you. All are well trained, informed and have a good feel for what the customer is looking for. This is what shopping of the future looks like!
The only thing missing? A couple of FloorCaster Pro’s in every aisle to display the product key features. Guess we’ll have to pay another visit to these shops soon!
Thorwald Meelis – Windo Displays [Product Development & Marketing]
Connecting the statistics
This day was all about connecting the statistics about the changing retail environment with our own personal experience. As the statistics and economical reports show, the retail environment is changing drastically. With big warehouses closing and small flag stores rising the focus in retail switched to the ‘customer experience’.
As mentioned above by my colleague Thorwald, the technological changes in the Levi’s store and the Runnersworld are all about the customers connectivity and interaction with ‘new’ media devices. Next to these stores, there were also some smaller stores, which have a different approach to the ‘customer experience’.
The ‘customer experience’ in these boutiques is more about the face-to-face, personalised advisory rather than technological innovations. When we entered a street where these boutiques make up most of the stores, we were really surprised by the absence of in store marketing material in general. Their strategy is the immediate customer engagement from their staff. The upselling or cross-selling is not done by extra marketing communications, but through sales on a very personal basis.
Another example is the ‘customer experience’ at the Lush store. Lush can not be qualified as a boutique store, but their approach to instore marketing is, more or less, the same. The let you use their products and advise you which products fit your needs. They even have an instore barbershop and make-up station where they will help you to give their customers the full Lush experience.
It’s a pity that we didn’t see more in store marketing in these stores, but with the right approach we see a lot more opportunities, and especially for our own products!
Lars Diephuis – Windo Displays [Marketing & Sales]