I like to focus on the retail experience because it represents the ultimate opportunity to bring together the visual, service, relationship, product, logistical, creative elements and more available to a business to create a one-of-a-kind, memorable and talk-worthy segment of time for customers.
(For additional perspective, see To Get More Business, Design Your Experience For Consumers.)
Good retail experiences have nothing to do with blandness. Rather, they embody a strong point of view (POV) that can't possibly be forgotten or confused with another. They bring your brand to life and keep it alive in people's minds and hearts.
Don't take the experience you create in your store or business for granted!
Many retail organizations take for granted the opportunity they have to create a retail experience. They forget that, by virtue of having a physical presence, they automatically carry weight with customers.
Therein lies the problem. The physical environment isn't seen as significant. The result is a retail experience transformed into something pathetic, dismally depressing and worth avoiding at all costs. It drives customers to seek out digital or automated alternatives which compensate for incompetence and dreariness with consistency and expedience.
Some who do the retail experience poorly blame digital devices and online shopping alternatives for stealing customers away.
They are the ones who forget, as Floor Covering Weekly columnist Chris Ramey points out in an article titled "Good and Evil", that customers are "the core of your business;" they seek "surprise and delight" rather than bland product.
Furthermore, customers' expectations are being shaped by the likes of Amazon and Zappos, Warby Parker and Nordstrom, Starbucks as well as Selfridges and Trader Joe's, all of which believe fiercely in their mission of customer delight.
Infuse your retail experiences with a POV!
The solution, Ramey says, "is to infuse your store with your own point of view (POV) and narrative."
Amazon, Zappos, Warby Parker, Nordstrom, Starbucks, Selfridges and Trader Joe's have created retail experiences infused with a POV and a story; they stand out physically and virtually.
Another article titled "Stores Are NOT Dead" by Robert Hocking in the January 2014 issue of DesignRetailOnline.com states "It seems few big companies remember what it was that made them what they are. Their worlds revolve around revenue rather than value; demographic segments instead of people. And what requires good common sense becomes over-analysis of the abstract... I believe the opportunity for physical retail has never been greater-but retail's existential threat is itself..."
The author describes his first insider experience of Selfridges, a premium department store in London which opened in 1909 and has ever since set a high bar for an unforgettable retail experience:
"...The visual spectacle was like a magical kingdom of retail. The department heads came onto the floor in a phalanx, then split apart to begin tweaking their environments. They obsessed over the details... (They) clearly saw the store as a stage... What Selfridges 'gets' better than most is that, as a retailer, retailing should be a major part of the appeal. And getting shoppers off the couch means delivering value through the creation of experience-that thing e-commerce can't compete with when it's done well..."
Even more fascinating is that Robert Hocking refers to Selfridges as an aggressive curator of its retail offerings, eliminating ~300 brands per season. "They know their customers, and they know how to stay current."
(Immediately, Trader Joe's comes to mind with its tight management of SKUs - see Trader Joe's - Where Values Drive The Brand. Having a strong POV means implementing rigorous product curation to retain your customers' trust and loyalty and ensure they return for more.)
Despite its fierce commitment to the physical retail experience, Selfridges has created an equally engaging and integrated online experience in recognition that its customers are also online.
Other examples of retail experience POV
For that matter, you should check out How Nordstrom uses Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+.
As well as Learn from the best: Publix’s social media manager on how to grow Twitter. This response is particularly relevant:
Any best practices you can share for companies? Know your brand, know your audience and always consider both for any content, whether it’s a planned message or a reply. Social media is a two-way conversation, so ask questions, encourage dialogue and then listen so you are there consistently for your followers.
Those retailers losing out are those whose retail experience either doesn't have a POV or lost it along the way. Furthermore, they haven't evolved their retail experience to meet the needs and expectations of customers...
What's your take on the retail experience and having a distinct POV?