Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
It’s no secret that the retail landscape is becoming more and more competitive, especially for small retailers. With online shopping grabbing a bigger piece of the retail pie, brick-and-mortar stores, in particular, must overcome some big challenges if they want to stay relevant.
But if reading about big retailers’ experiments with virtual reality dressing rooms or facial recognition technology has you in a panic, calm down. The answer to getting and keeping customers is a lot simpler than you think, ServiceChannel’s State of Brick and Mortar Retail Report discovered.
The secret? Deliver the basics.
Don’t disappoint your shoppers
ServiceChannel found the key to satisfying customers is simply meeting their expectations. Meeting customers’ expectations may seem like the least a retailer can do, but it’s less common than you think. A whopping 70% of shoppers report having a negative experience in the last six months at a physical retail store, according to ServiceChannel’s report, which polled 1,521 shoppers about their recent experiences at brick-and-mortar locations.
What created that negative experience? Two in 5 shoppers say they couldn’t find what they came for due to empty shelves or disorganized inventory. Almost two-thirds (64%) say they’ve walked out of a store because it looked dirty or disorganized. 20% have run into spilled products or messy floors in a store.
What happens after customers have a bad experience in a physical store? More than half (52%) of shoppers leave immediately, and 40% stay but spend less money than they’d planned to. Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) say they are more likely to shop at a competitor. The same percentage say they’re less likely to ever return to the store where they had the bad experience.
Poor experiences have an especially negative effect on female shoppers and shoppers with household incomes of more than $100K. Those are two groups that most retailers strive to please—and can’t afford to offend.
What retail shoppers expect from your store
So what does your store need to stay competitive? It’s all about the basics. According to the National Retail Federation Consumer View, 63% of consumers say they expect good customer service from retailers, 55% expect fast or simplified checkout, and 57% expect to be able to find what they want quickly and easily.
Remember, being able to touch and try on products they want, purchase them quickly, and take them home immediately is why shoppers go to brick-and-mortar stores in the first place. In fact, 86% of all respondents in ServiceChannel’s survey, which includes millennials and Generation Z respondents, still make half or more of their purchases in physical stores. If you can’t deliver on customer expectations, there are plenty of other places for them to shop.
As for that virtual reality dressing room, forget about it. Two-thirds of shoppers ServiceChannel polled say retailers are focusing too much on technology and not enough on the basics. Four out of 5 shoppers would rather visit a clean store than one that prioritizes technology. And when asked about technology, the No. 1 thing shoppers want is free in-store Wi-Fi—something even the smallest retailer can easily deliver.
So how can your store stay ahead of the pack? It’s easy.
- Maintain a good supply of inventory, and make it easy for shoppers to find the items they’re looking for.
- Keep your store well-maintained, clean, and inviting at all times.
- Have plenty of friendly, fast service on hand. Make sure you have enough employees in-store, so shoppers can always get the help they need.
- Enable fast, easy checkout.
Help your customers get in, find what they want, pay for it, and get on their way, and your retail store will have an edge over your competition. It’s so simple, you have to wonder why more stores don’t do it.
Rieva Lesonsky is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.