As consumer purchasing options widen, it becomes increasingly challenging for retail organizations to foster a brand identity that connects with evolving consumer expectations. Different technologies have shifted the primary channels in which these interactions take place, forcing brands to adjust their experience platform. If your team is not consistently measuring this changing landscape, it is setting itself up to fall behind the competition.Conduct research programs like mystery shopping and competitive benchmarking programs to capture a better understanding of these evolving consumer expectations in the retail industry.
Understanding the current trends in the market can be a major differentiator between your brand and the competition. Competitive benchmarking is a form of mystery shopping that can help capture this data because it sends evaluators to measure and observe how other organizations in the industry are operating. Once you have collected enough information about the market-at-large, your brand can begin to adjust its experience to meet these evolving consumer desires.
In the retail industry, there are a few major changes that are drastically impacting the industry landscape. After realizing that consumers are moving away from in-store shopping towards online channels, retail organizations are adjusting the value proposition of their brick-and-mortar locations. These merchandise-free shops are being rolled out by Nordstrom as an attempt to offer an experiential value instead of a transactional one. Nordstrom Local branches allow customers to socialize over wine, beer and cocktails, get a manicure, meet with a personal stylist or even get their items worked on by an in-house tailor. Additionally, customers can try on products they ordered online within each location’s extra-fancy dressing rooms. The benefits provided within Nordstrom Local locations show customers that the organization and its employees are attempting to add value to their customers’ lives beyond being a place to purchase clothing products.
Another trend that is attracting customers to visit brick-and-mortar locations is to install experiential technology that improves the customer journey in an interesting and shareable way. While it is always great to leverage existing technology to reduce customer effort, like PetSmart and Office Depot offering online customers the option to order online and pick-up in-store, other organizations are implementing creative methods to bring consumers to their brick-and-mortar shops. For example, DSW has created the “Shoevator,” an elevator lift that delivers shoes ordered via in-store kiosk or their mobile app directly to the customer. Even though this technology does not improve the quality of the product or drive down the price, it can help improve your brand experience because it offers customers a never-before-seen experience that is unattainable online.
Beyond brick-and-mortar, your online retail brand experience needs to be aware of and acting-on these ever-changing trends. Improving your site to allow for trendy convenience-enhancing features like visual search is a great first step, but there are other effective methods beyond the technology that your brand can leverage to connect with customers online. One growing trend in online retail is curated subscription services. Major brands like Gap, Hasbro and Fender are experimenting with these monthly subscription services that offer value beyond price. Gap offers the “babyGap Outfit Box” that sends collections of baby fashion to subscribers, Hasbro offers subscribers their “Party Crate” consisting of three brand new games every three months delivered to their homes and Fender offers subscribers an online video lesson curriculum that reacts and responds to their progress instantaneously. All these examples show major players in their space adjusting the value they provide to customers based on evolving consumer desires and industry trends.
The retail industry is über-competitive, meaning that any way your organization can further connect with customers is essential to establishing long-term customer relationships. As technology further integrates brand into consumers’ lives, the role of the retail organization will evolve in the mind of the customer. Consistently implement research programs like mystery shopping and competitive benchmarking to ensure that your organization is keeping up with this evolving cycle of trends and consumer desires.
Second To None empowers customer-centric brands to deliver consistent, intentional and authentic consumer experiences.
We adeptly design and manage mystery shopping, compliance, engagement and voice of customer solutions grounded in strategic relevance, program integrity and actionable insights. Our solutions are developed on the basis of solid research and statistical science. We achieve success through a relentless focus on quality and innovation, consultative relationships and a talented team of professional associates.