Why Retail Businesses Need to Move Beyond Click and Mortar

Story, a retailer situated on 10th Avenue in Manhattan, built their entire business model around an experience-first approach. Part concept, part lab, and part store with a revenue stream, Story swaps out everything — from store design to inventory — to match the theme of the month. From “Home for the Holidays” in December and a “Love Story” in February to their “New York” story, the brand finds themes to tell the stories that consumers are living.

To do so, they blur digital and physical lines to create a seamless and frictionless customer experience. Online, consumers can read articles and watch videos surrounding the current story. In their physical location, consumers attend live events and shop retail, all with the same theme they saw online. Wherever consumers engage with the brand, the experience is the same, delivered via a plethora of micro-moments that span both physical and digital touchpoints.

Four Steps to Create Your Frictionless, Seamless Retail Experience
Like Story’s team, your marketing team is working hard to create campaigns that highlight the features and benefits of your retail brand. However, Story demonstrates that great marketing campaigns alone do not create omnichannel brand experiences. Experiences are crafted from looking at every interaction your customer has with your brand — from your website and the story you tell about your brand to actual interactions with sales associates — and then creating frictionless and seamless experiences that make the most of every micro-moment. The result can be an immersive and unforgettable experience for retail customers. Following are four steps to help your brand create a frictionless and seamless retail experience across all touchpoints.

1. Blur the Lines Between a Campaign and an Experience — Start With a Story.
Clearly, Story has created a memorable and compelling experience through their ability to tell a cohesive story. But, a great story is not the be-all and end-all for a seamless customer experience. Think of the “story” as the promise of a great customer experience at all touchpoints. To do so, don’t stop at digital marketing.

The iconic Kellogg’s brand looked at new experiences as ways to engage with their customers in different ways. Rather than traditional TV spots or grocery-store promotions, they wanted to create truly interactive experiences. That’s why, to celebrate their 110th anniversary, they opened their first restaurant in Times Square, Kellog’s NYC, to offer customers new ways to engage with their brand, giving well-loved cereals a modern epicurean twist.

They partnered with award-winning chef and founder of New York’s Milk Bar, Christina Tosi, to offer tasty, modern cereal treats — like Pistachio Lemon, Berry Me in Green Tea, and The Chai Line — all of which incorporate Kellogg’s cereals. Then, they turned to the graphic-design firm, Virgo, for graphics that combined both historic and current Kellogg’s characters to tell Kellogg’s 100+-year-old story. The result: the same brand story that consumers grew up with came to life in Kellogg’s brick-and-mortar location, helping Kellogg’s stand out in the retail crowd.

2. Create a Seamless Experience — Both in-Store and Online.
The customer experience should not differ from channel to channel. Instead, you need to form a cohesive retail-brand experience for your customers. Your look and feel should be the same throughout the customer journey, regardless of how a customer first interacts with you. After all, the days of the linear sales funnel are gone. You can’t select which channels a customer chooses to engage in or how they interact with you at every touchpoint. Since you have an omnichannel presence, you must make sure you provide an omnichannel customer experience.

Still, despite customers’ expectations of omnichannel experiences, some brands still separate their customers into ‘store’ and ‘online’ segments. But, the fact is, most customer journeys may start online, but they end in the store. In fact, 92 percent of all retail purchases still happen in-store, making the true omnichannel experience critical for all retail businesses. You can’t afford to have stellar customer-response rates on Twitter while in-store staff members are rude (or vice versa).

At Sport Chek, all their sales associates specialize in at least one sport. If they don’t know the answer to a customer’s question, it can be easily accessed on tablets preloaded with vendor content that Sport Chek provides for its staff. This two-tiered approach to having knowledgeable employees is invaluable. Sales associates act as experts to help customers find the products that are right for them. If Sport Chek provided a wealth of expertise on their websites but left consumers hanging when it came time to make purchases, customers would likely walk away feeling betrayed, as campaign promises weren’t delivered on from awareness all the way through to conversion.

3. Make the Most of the Micro-Moment — No Matter the Channel.
Every moment matters. Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads and commerce, emphasized the importance of micro-moments. She defines them as the short moments when consumers act on a need to do, learn, discover, watch, or even buy something. And, through the collective experience of these moments, consumers are ultimately driven to convert. In these moments, consumer expectations are higher than ever, and the ability to meet those expectations at each micro-moment often determines how far the consumer will go toward conversion.

For instance, you may think that having an endless array of online options in every category is likely to increase your sales. However, this can lead to the paradox of choice phenomenon in which customers see all these options and are struck with decision paralysis. In that micro-moment, when they view how much inventory they have to look through, they may feel overwhelmed or not know where to start. By optimizing this micro-moment to include only six to seven products that will be highly relevant to the consumer, brands can curate frictionless experiences and send a message that they not only know their customers’ needs, but can also meet them.

In this same way, in-store shopping should be effortless with a seamless experience focusing on optimizing the micro-moment. This helps solidify a truly amazing experience. UK retailer Argos implemented a new strategy they call “Fast Track.” It allows customers to order online and pick the item/s up in a nearby store. With Fast Track, Argos hones in on creating great micro-moments by guaranteeing customers a 60-second visit from arrival to departure. This means customers can literally order an item while they’re on the train and grab the item on the way out of the station. By optimizing this customer micro-moment, the brand has decreased wait times and made the shopping experience completely effortless, and in turn, increased their sales as well as their customer-retention rates.

4. Connect Micro-Moments for an Enhanced Customer Experience.
Remember, all channels of your brand should be treated as equally important. Customers expect to receive the same customer service and have the same experience no matter how they engage with your brand — in person, online, through social media, or via mobile. Further, they expect each interaction — or micro-moment — to lead them through that cohesive experience. This means marketers must use today’s touchpoints to understand what shoppers are looking for in the subsequent micro-moments — even in an omnichannel context.

Outdoor retailer Orvis recently launched digital enhancements to improve their in-store experience. If a store customer asks for a product that the store doesn’t carry, sales associates don’t send customers away empty-handed. Instead, sales associates use iPads to locate a store that does have the item, order it, and have it shipped directly to the customer’s home. Lastly, they process all online purchases and in-store purchases on one receipt — the true definition of a universal shopping cart. While costs were involved in improving the customer experience, it has paid off. Within three months, Orvis had met every one of their annual goals. Digital ordering increased by 12 percent, and their email capture rate increased 400 percent.

Bad Experiences Lead to Churn and Impact the Bottom Line.
Neglecting brand experience can increase churn and hurt your bottom line. Conversely, positive brand experiences can improve customer retention and increase acquisition rates. Gartner states that, by the end of this year, 89 percent of businesses will be competing based on customer experience.

And, if we think about it, this makes sense — 13 percent of customers tell 15 or more people when they’re unhappy with an experience. Conversely, 72 percent of consumers will share positive experiences with 6 or more people. In addition, 67 percent of customers cite bad experiences as a reason for not returning to a retailer. The bottom line is, if customers are unhappy with their experiences, you stand to lose both existing and potential customers alike. Getting ahead of the pack when it comes to customer experience can greatly strengthen your retail brand.

In Conclusion
At the end of the day, it’s important for all retailers to realize that customers regularly move through multiple channels. Story and a plethora of other innovative brands are grabbing attention by telling their stories with optimized brand experiences to delight consumers at every touchpoint — even down to those micro-moments that many brands take for granted. Take simple steps to begin offering a cohesively great brand experience to your customers. Even small wins translate into big gains as consumers understand you’re there to serve them in their moments of truth.

See how commerce is being redefined — and what it means for your business — with more stories in our Brick and Click Collection.