Think of a store (online or in-person) that you love visiting even when you have nothing to buy — those stores that not only offer amazing products but provide an enjoyable shopping experience.
Those stores stand out in your mind, don’t they?
Today, the shopping experience is arguably more memorable than the products themselves. With so many ways to shop, customers likely choose the ones that are the most, well, fun.
In this post, we’re going to unpack the shopping experience, why it’s so important in modern retail, and how to improve your own to keep your customers coming back.
The Shopping Experience
The shopping experience is how your customers encounter your brand, store, and products. In today’s retail industry, the shopping experience extends far beyond your physical store — especially if you offer an e-commerce shopping option. It applies to all the ways you touch and interact with customers.
The shopping experience is a critical component of retail.
While the traditional shopping experience focused on how customers interacted with and served your storefront and brand, today’s shopping experience is quite the opposite. It should be centered around a customer-centric, omnichannel strategy that places your shoppers in the spotlight.
Why is the retail shopping experience important?
Improving the shopping experience for your business is the key to long-term retail success. In short, the retail shopping experience — whether online or in-person — is a customer’s impression of your business. And this is the impression they’ll share with others.
If they enjoy interacting with your brand and products or services, they’ll likely return … similar to how we prefer to spend more time with the people we like.
The shopping experience is also important because customers are more informed and knowledgeable than ever. In years past, retail store associates held the key to product information and were primarily focused on making sales over providing excellent customer service. This isn’t the case anymore.
Today’s shoppers are armed with the key to endless product knowledge and reviews — the internet. No longer do retail associates hold the upper hand when it comes to what customers want and need.
What does this mean? Retailers must leverage an extraordinary customer experience to stand out to shoppers (and from competitors). Retail associates aren’t obsolete, but their primary role has now extended far beyond making sales.
Today, they should focus more on serving, educating, and delighting customers.
In today’s retail industry, the shopping experience extends far beyond your physical store — especially if you offer an e-commerce shopping option. It applies to all the ways you touch and interact with customers.
6 Ways to Improve Your Customer's Shopping Experience
Let’s unpack six ways to improve your retail shopping experience.
1. Pay attention to every touchpoint.
As we said above, the shopping experience applies to all the ways you touch and interact with customers. Note the different customer touchpoints from the moment they walk in your doors or visit your website. In your physical store, are they greeted right away? What do they see as they walk in? Is your store laid out for easy browsing?
As for your e-commerce website, what do customers see on your homepage? Can they easily access your products, customer reviews, customer support, and contact information?
For those retailers who operate both online and in-person stores, pay close attention to how those channels intersect. 84% of consumers have reported that retailers should be doing more to integrate their online and offline channels. Ensure you offer plenty of product information online to educate customers who prefer to shop in-store. Alternatively, in-store shoppers should be able to process online customer support tickets regardless of where or how they shopped with you. Finally, be sure your customer accounts translate between your online and in-store PoS (point of sale) systems to keep your customer accounts — and shopping experiences — consistent.
2. Encourage and publish customer reviews.
Customer feedback is the best feedback. While your designers, marketers, and retail associates may know the ins and outs of your products, customers are the ones who buy and use them. Since customers are now the center of the shopping experience, their feedback about that experience is also highly valuable.
Whether your retail store is in-person or online, encourage each and every customer to share their feedback in the form of a customer review. Collect the most comprehensive and positive ones and share them on your website and social media as social proof.
While we don’t encourage publishing negative reviews, you can still learn a lot from customer complaints. You may learn something valuable about your product or service from a negative piece of feedback.
3. Reduce friction in the buying process.
Getting your customers to the register is only half the battle. In fact, the cart abandonment average across industries is almost 70%. Traffic at brick-and-mortar retailers isn’t tracked as clearly, but it’s easy to assume that plenty of shoppers leave stores because of complicated or lengthy checkout processes.
Improve your shopping experience by improving your checkout experience. If you operate a physical store, keep checkout lines down as much as possible. Consider choosing a PoS that enables store associates to process checkouts on the floor. This brings the process to customers (instead of the other way around) and encourages customers to purchase as they shop.
If you offer primarily online shopping, walk through your own checkout process to identify any places of friction. Offer a guest checkout if possible so shoppers aren’t turned off by having to create a customer account — instead, prompt them to create a login after purchase.
4. Don’t neglect post-purchase care.
The shopping experience doesn’t stop at the register either. Whether you trigger a post-purchase email series or personally follow up with a phone call, be sure to check in with customers after they’ve shopped with you. These actions show that you care about your customer as a person, not a payment.
Maintaining customer relationships after purchase can help customers feel more comfortable reaching out for customer support or to share constructive feedback. How you help customers may dictate how they interact with you in the future. In fact, poignant post-purchase care is likely to turn shoppers into loyal customers, contributing to higher customer retention rates.
5. Create a community around your brand.
Your physical and/or digital store brings people together to shop. But there are other ways your brand and shopping experience — whether in-person or online — can provide customers with value beyond your products or services.
Use your brand to create a community. If you have a physical store, hold events, classes, or special shopping nights that attract and celebrate your best customers. If you mainly operate from an online store, encourage your customers to connect through a brand forum, loyalty program, or social media.
Not only does this build camaraderie and highlight shared interests, but it helps you identify your most loyal customers — and potential brand ambassadors — that can provide constructive feedback about your shopping experience.
6. Take care of your employees.
Your employees are the face of your company. They serve, educate, and delight your customers and tend to make or break customers’ shopping experience. If they’re not happy, they’ll not likely prioritize your customers’ happiness.
Start by hiring outstanding employees. From day one, train your staff to genuinely care for your customers by practicing active listening and building authentic relationships. Lastly, equip them with the tools they need to best serve your customers, such as Endear.
3 Real-Life Examples of Unforgettable Shopping Experiences
Learn from these three real-life retail examples of how to create an unforgettable customer experience.
Luxury sneaker retailer Koio operates an e-commerce store in addition to six brick-and-mortar locations and blends their omnichannel shopping experience quite well. For one, Koio’s retail associates frequently send customer follow-ups, personal product recommendations, and messages of gratitude to in-store and online shoppers.
Koio also employs a unique event and community engagement strategy to improve its shopping experience — its latest launch party targeted and invited local shoppers to celebrate the newest Koio store in their neighborhood by shopping online or in-person. The store also hosts other in-person events to build camaraderie and loyalty around the Koio brand.
Rebag, a resale retailer of luxury handbags, started as an e-commerce-only store. The brand recently moved into brick-and-mortar locations across New York City, LA, and Miami to continue to deliver a trustworthy luxury shopping experience. Rebag delivers this experience through clienteling.
Leading customers receive a designated “relationship manager”, a Rebag associate who is fully committed to their Rebag experience. This individual is typically part of the brand’s retail or business development team and works closely with customers to browse bags and process purchases — an important part of navigating the luxury resale industry and store experience.
HATCH is a women’s and maternity apparel retailer. While the brand offers two gorgeous brick-and-mortar locations in New York City and LA, it excels in the digital shopping experience.
For one, HATCH brings together potential and long-time customers alike through its new digital community. It offers almost-daily events that educate and connect members; considering most HATCH customers are expecting mothers, information around birth, children, and motherhood is well-appreciated. The HATCH community also exists on Facebook and Instagram.
In addition, HATCH provides at-home styling services, HATCH @ Home, via Zoom or FaceTime with customers who can’t or prefer not to visit a store location.
These are just a few key examples of how retailers are improving the shopping experience for their customers. Notice the consistencies — relationship-building, community-building, and omnichannel alignment. Consider a tool like Endear to capture these trends, improve your own shopping experience, and create loyal customers.