Human Connection is Key to In-store Retailers
In a new era of retailing, customer service has transformed context to be geared toward the emotional behavior of the shopper. While many consumers have been changing the way they shop toward a more online-centered experience, in-store retailers have to refocus and reimagine what will continue to bring customers through their doors.
As evidenced by its strong Q4 2017 results, on top of a year that had already exceeded expectations, Home Depot has found the necessary processes that have been key in driving consumer engagement.
As such, Home Depot is a perfect example of a “smart” retailer.
Smart retailers are effectively competing along two dimensions: 1) rethinking how to use the store format to create experiences for customers, and 2) creating seamless omnichannel experiences across apps, ecommerce platforms, social media and in-store.
Nordstrom and Sephora are other retailers that are demonstrating the power of functioning “smartly.”
With Nordstrom Local, Nordstrom is rethinking the store format by creating a small-store format that doesn’t carry an inventory. Rather, it curates a social environment that includes styling, tailoring and manicures in the service of creating a pampered experience for its customers.
Sephora is by far the gold standard in refocusing their customer engagement. They’ve created a truly consistent experience across all its properties. However, it goes beyond that. The company has integrated the pre-sale and post-sale via user-generated and expert/celebrity videos that share how-to’s for creating the perfect looks and “Sephora Haul” videos that celebrate the arrival and opening of a Sephora order, which often includes surprise samples in addition to the products ordered.
Standing out by reconsidering outdated metrics
Home Depot has also been successful as it has begun to transition metrics of measuring store success by looking at new data: impact to brand impression, digital purchase intent, inspiration per square foot, etc.
Throughout the past year, the retailer has introduced in-store solution centers, which provide a space where customers can get answers to questions about home improvement projects. By offering these test centers, Home Depot can analyze what customers are shopping for and asking about, along with getting valuable input from employees into customers’ needs. These cross-functional methods have proven to be successful for the retailer so far.
In the new world of retail, companies need better ways to measure the impact of the customer experience because a visit to the store can be effective even if the sale is not immediately closed. Retailers need new ways to capture that impact beyond traditional methods.
In order for them to keep up, an interesting evolution has come to retail.
First, brick-and-mortar stores pursued ecommerce, usually run as an entirely separate operation. A big issue was that there was a lot of overlap between offline and online customers, which created a jarring experience online, and presented a brand that was often unrecognizable to their customers.
Now, we see more and more ecommerce retailers establishing a presence with physical stores and, often, the expression of the brand is more consistent than we saw with brick-and-mortars going online. An integrated online/offline strategy is essential for ensuring the brand is consistently represented to the customer across formats.