Retail Strategy: Experience, Experience, Experience

When it comes to retail strategy, the three most important words are no longer location, location, location.

They are now experience, experience, experience!

For the last century, the phrase “location, location, location” has always been the number one retail strategy of brick & mortar brands. Where your business was located trumped nearly everything else. A great location was regarded as being situated in an area that has heavy foot traffic, complimentary attractive businesses (Apple, Starbucks), easy accessibility, and the right demographic for your brand.

Retail Employee, Retail StrategyToday the key driver to a successful business is not only about the right location, but even more importantly the experience your brand consistently delivers. There are plenty of businesses who opened up in prime shopping centers, were poor at customer service, that eventually closed. More than 80% of consumers surveyed see the experiences a company provides as being as important as its products.

A motto of The DiJulius Group is to help companies “Make Price Irrelevant”. We define that as:

Based on the experience your brand consistently delivers,

your customers have no idea what your competition charges.

 

The same can be said for “Making Convenience Irrelevant”. Think about where you regularly get your haircut, your favorite restaurant, clothing store, dry cleaner, or café. I bet most of your “favorite” places are not the most convenient­—the closest to where you live or work. Often times, we drive past numerous competitors or drive a couple of extra exits on a freeway, to get to the retailer of our choice. Why? Because we prefer them and are willing to put more effort to give them our business.

Location vs Experience:  Retail Strategy Proof

The first business I opened 31 years ago was John Robert’s Spa, a chain of upscale salons and spas in Northeast Ohio. John Robert’s has been selected as one of the top 20 salons in the US multiple times. None of our locations are in prime real estate shopping centers. Ironically, over the past 20 years, our consistently top performing salon is located in Solon, Ohio. Solon is a great city; however, the location of our salon is in the worst possible place. It is hidden off a side street that is difficult to access from the main road if you are traveling south. You actually have to go out of your way to gain access to the street it is on. And when you are leaving the salon, you have to do the same detour to go south.

The salon is in a strip center that is old and unattractive. The other tenants in the center go in and out of business regularly. We get a large amount of guest complaints weekly about the inconvenience of the location. Did I mention that our Solon location has been our number one performing salon with the most revenue per square foot and the most profitable since 2001?

Chick-Fil-A Location or Experience?

Another example is a location near our Solon salon. For over thirty years, the location has had at least half a dozen different restaurants open and close. Well-known national brands, some mom and pops; nothing has ever worked and lasted in that location. It was a joke of the city; people saying that location is cursed. That changed about ten years ago when Chick-fil-A opened up in that cursed location. Now that location has a line of cars wrapped around it trying to get in and out of Chick-fil-A. It is one of Chick-fil-A’s top performing restaurants.

Today, location is not the number one driver in customer preferences. You retail strategy must consider that customers value a consistent experience. What does an experience look like? Reliability, consistency, trust, the feeling of being cared for, kindness, recognition, personalization, ease of doing business, and a sense of community.

*Related – How to Become One of the Top Customer Satisfaction Companies

 

So, let’s define “Making Convenience Irrelevant.” 

Based on the experience your brand consistently delivers,

your customers don’t care which competitors are more convenient.


The Retail Renaissance

Because more and more brick-and-mortar brands have a retail strategy that recognizes the importance of the experience, retail is making a comeback.

A Fast Company article, “Brick-and-mortar retail is back, but without the gimmicks,” demonstrates how a decade ago, the “retail apocalypse” was in full swing, with thousands of stores closing annually as consumer behavior shifted towards online shopping. As a result, brands were forced to create engaging in-store experiences essential to attract customers back to physical locations. In the years following the pandemic, there has been a noticeable eagerness among consumers to return to in-person shopping, resulting in more than 16,000 new store openings in the last two years. Retail sales soared to $6.183 trillion last year, marking an 11% increase from the previous year.

*Related – The 1960’s called and want their customer service back

As the retail sector rebounds, brands are shifting their focus from merely providing entertainment to delivering personalized customer service that leaves a lasting impression. For instance, Todd Snyder offers in-store tailoring services accompanied by a glass of Scotch. Orvis invites customers to participate in complimentary fly-fishing lessons in local waters, enhancing their ability to use new fishing equipment. Converse’s holiday pop-up allows for personalization of sneakers with initials, and Ikea is introducing smaller stores with in-house designers to assist in creating your ideal home.

These enhanced customer experiences hark back to the traditional, personal touch that shopkeepers previously used to cultivate relationships with their customers. Yet, in today’s digital age, such personalized face-to-face interactions with brands are perceived as unique and exceptional.

The Post-Pandemic Store Experience

When you walk into a Todd Snyder location in Boston you may wonder if you entered a high-end pub instead of a clothing store. You immediately see a pool table and a well-stocked bar, with shelves adorned with sweaters, books, and cologne, arranged as they might be in a personal residence. Snyder personally selects the furniture for each of his seven retail locations, often choosing vintage pieces, aiming to create an inviting atmosphere rather than an overwhelming spectacle. Snyder is growing unconventionally from what most retailers have done in the past ten to fifteen years. They have also started an online brand, and now are expanding its physical stores.

Todd Snyder is not the only retailer using unique experiences as a retail strategy to draw customers back to their physical locations. Casper offers nap pods for daytime rest, Vans built a skate park inside its London store, and brands ranging from Glossier to Perrier designed visually stunning pop-ups intended as perfect settings for Instagram photos. Converse has expanded its customization service. Customers have the opportunity to design a pair of sneakers entirely from scratch, selecting everything from the shape and material to the shoelaces, which are then assembled into the final product on the spot. Additionally, during a holiday pop-up in Boston’s Seaport District, Converse introduced an embroidery artist capable of adding unique designs or initials to sneakers, offering a personalized touch.

What a Customer Really Wants

In a Newsweek article What Consumers Expect from In-Store Experiences in 2024 and Beyond, customers expect frictionless shopping experiences for them bolstered by great customer service and technology.

A key to what the new age retail customers wants, the article points out, is a personalized experience. In a report from McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect businesses to understand and cater to their individual interests and 76% of consumers said they get frustrated when companies fail to do so. Retailers are creating unparalleled in-store experiences that go beyond what’s available online by offering personalized shopping options. Customers can tailor their shopping journey according to their preferences, choosing how they wish to engage with the store. Technology is at the heart of this customization, allowing retailers to utilize customer data and analytics to present individualized content through interactive displays. This approach not only enriches the shopping experience but also ensures that each customer’s needs and preferences are met in a unique way.

retail strategy self serve kiosk

Another great retail strategy that is attracting and keeping customers is by marrying the digital with the in-store experience. Examples of this are self-service kiosks, digital menus, and self-checkout systems are becoming increasingly common. Through augmented reality and smart labels, retailers can offer interactive product demonstrations or engage customers with in-store treasure hunts. Moreover, virtual reality can be utilized to deliver comprehensive virtual try-on sessions or immersive product testing experiences, enhancing the overall shopping journey.

83% of consumers are more likely to return to your store after a positive in-store experience and 63% of shoppers will spend more per visit when they have a positive in-store experience, according to Raydiant.

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Leadership Training Programs:

Customer Experience Executive Academy
Now enrolling for April 16-18, 2024 start

The Customer Xperience Executive Academy (CXEA) is similar to a master’s degree in Customer Experience. The Customer Experience Executive Academy course is a 12-month part-time rigorous program. Training will occur in the classroom, in businesses, and virtually through scheduled calls and webinars. The CXE student is required to attend quarterly intensive training sessions (3 days/quarter for 1 year) and participate in virtual meetings. Contact claudia@thedijuliusgroup.com to learn more.

Upcoming Free Webinars to Improve the Customer and Employee Experience:

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March 21, 2024:  Why The Employee Experience Revolution with John DiJulius & Dave Murray

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About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.