Think about where you like to shop the most. What sets it apart from other places that leave you feeling lukewarm (or worse)? The products themselves are likely a factor, but the place you love probably offers something more: A great shopping experience. A welcoming environment, helpful service, and convenience can keep customers returning to brick-and-mortar stores. Read on to learn how to create successful shopping experiences for your customers.
Why is the shopping experience important?
A retailer’s ability to create a great shopping experience for customers is a strong contributor to the success of their business, whether it operates ecommerce websites or brick-and-mortar stores. A PwC study found that 73% of today’s shoppers consider customer experience a key factor in their purchasing decisions. That same study found one in three consumers would walk away from a retail brand after just one bad experience.
Positive shopping experiences keep customers coming back and increase customer loyalty, which is incredibly valuable, because the cost of acquiring a new customer is typically greater than retention expenses. Having loyal customers can also make it easier to earn the trust of potential customers through positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Elements of the shopping experience
Whether shopping online or in-store, three main elements influence a customer’s shopping experience:
The environment in which a person shops has a huge impact on their retail experience. Brick-and-mortar retailers should pay close attention to their store design and atmosphere. A well-organized and logically arranged store can reduce customer frustration and control the flow of foot traffic.
Brick-and-mortar store owners also have the opportunity to offer in-store shoppers a more immersive experience through music, lighting, scents, and visual elements that complement and strengthen your brand’s identity. Make customers feel excited to visit your store by offering extras like monogramming, tailoring, gift wrapping, in-store classes and events, or complimentary beverages.
The environment is also important in the digital world. Your ecommerce site should be visually appealing and easy to navigate.
Customer service can profoundly influence the shopping experience and directly affect customer satisfaction, loyalty, and the overall perception of a brand or business.
In brick-and-mortar stores, friendly and knowledgeable staff create a welcoming atmosphere, offering guidance, recommendations, and prompt assistance. Efficient problem resolution and a personalized approach in face-to-face interactions elevate the experience, building trust and a positive emotional connection between the customer and the brand.
Online customer service is just as important. Responsive support, whether through live chat, email, or social media, should address customer inquiries swiftly.
Ease of access can be a significant factor in purchase decisions. A PwC survey found 43% of customers are willing to pay more for greater convenience.
Convenient in-store shopping starts with physical location. Shopping online is easier than ever, so customers are less willing to travel out of their way to visit your store. Choose a store location that is easily accessible and has high foot traffic.
Once you get shoppers in the door, make sure your retail store is well-stocked and well-organized so customers can find what they’re looking for quickly. Amenities like seating areas, clean restrooms, shopping baskets or carts, and fitting rooms (for clothing stores) can also make customers feel more comfortable. Finally, optimize the checkout process so customers don’t have to wait in long lines when trying to purchase products.
Although online stores allow customers to shop from anywhere, the downside of online channels is that consumers can’t see, feel, or try on products. Make shoppers feel more confident about their purchase decisions by providing detailed product descriptions, high-quality images, and customer reviews. You can also offer fast and inexpensive shipping (with tracking) and implement a hassle-free return process with clear instructions and a simple refund policy.
How to improve the shopping experience
- Create a comfortable atmosphere
- Value your employees
- Make buying easy
- Provide post-purchase care
- Reward loyalty
Improving the shopping experience for your customers can build loyalty and help your business grow. Here are five strategies for providing a successful shopping experience:
1. Create a comfortable atmosphere
Consider the entire sensory and emotional customer experience in a retail environment. A well-organized, aesthetically pleasing space encourages customers to explore, linger, and ultimately feel more connected to your business. The goal is to craft an environment that resonates with the target audience and strengthens your brand image.
2. Value your employees
Store owners can’t create a great shopping experience for customers without buy-in from their employees. Ensure your store associates and other staff feel appreciated, supported, and motivated, because this can translate into how they serve customers.
When employees feel valued, they are more inclined to go the extra mile, exhibit a stronger commitment to company goals, and create a welcoming and accommodating environment for customers.
3. Make buying easy
In physical stores, ensure clear product placement, well-labeled aisles, and efficient checkout counters. Similarly, in online retail, a user-friendly website with clear product descriptions and intuitive navigation simplifies the buying process. Customers will also appreciate multiple payment options, secure payment systems, and clear policies for customer returns and exchanges on both platforms.
4. Provide post-purchase care
A customer’s shopping experience doesn’t have to end at checkout. Post-purchase communication, such as sending personalized thank-yous, not only shows appreciation but also serves as a touchpoint for any potential queries or concerns.
Providing accessible and efficient customer service channels, detailed tracking information for orders, and frequent delivery updates ensures customers feel supported and informed after buying. You also can seek feedback through surveys or reviews, which can help your business adapt to customer needs and continually enhance the shopping experience.
5. Reward loyalty
Acknowledge and appreciate customers for their continued support and repeat business. Provide early access to new products or events, invite loyal customers to VIP sales, and implement a loyalty program with incentives such as discounts, exclusive offers, or freebies.
Shopping experience FAQ
What is a shopping experience?
A shopping experience is what it sounds like—it refers to the overall impression and interactions a customer has while shopping. It encompasses the entire journey, from the moment a customer becomes aware of a product or service to the post-purchase interactions. Shopping experiences occur in both physical and online stores.
What are the benefits of a great shopping experience?
A great shopping experience increases customer satisfaction, resulting in a positive long-term relationship between the customer and the brand.
What’s the easiest way to improve the shopping experience?
The easiest way to improve a customer’s shopping experience is to focus on excellent customer service. Providing exceptional service (through friendly greetings, attentive listening, and efficient problem solving) can make a significant impact without requiring major changes to your products or processes.