How to Reshape the In-Store Experience for the Media-Immersed Consumer
It used to be that consumers lived their lives in the physical world and, on occasion, engaged with media content. Forty years ago, this engagement looked like listening to the radio in the car to and from work, playing music at home, and watching TV in the mornings before work and in the evenings to unwind. Most other times were spent engaging with other human beings at home, work, or school, fully present with your physical surroundings.
As technology has evolved and media has proliferated, the times that people used to spend engaging with others or the outside world have been encroached upon by new forms of media. Now, we have smartphones in our hands from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep at night. Music, video, and text can be accessed from anywhere and at any time. And media services, particularly social media, have become very adept at creating dopamine hits that drive constant media engagement.
The result: We live lives dominated by media content.
Media’s Impact on our Non-Media Experiences
When we’re not directly engaging with media, what we are doing is heavily influenced by it. Our expectations, motivations, and desires are constantly colored by the media we consume around the non-media experiences we have.
For example, imagine while on your way to Target, you listen to content from Spotify on the drive and then check your social media feed the moment before you enter the store. As you walk inside the retail space, imprinted on your mind is a fresh memory of a video that made you laugh, a DM from a friend sharing an outrageous post, or someone’s photos that made you feel jealous. These are each tiny dopamine hits that affect your state of being as you enter the store. So, what in-person experience will make you feel fully present and great about the store?
Consider these options:
- You find what you need and use the self-checkout without having to see or say anything to anyone.
- You enter the store and an employee smiles and says, “Hi, it’s great to have you in our store today!”
- You use a store checkout where someone helps you bag up your products. They also compliment you on your selection, remarking that they love the outfit you selected or how great it looks like your dinner is going to be.
Shoppers may vary in their preferences, but what it comes down to is this: The best approach for retail will be determined by how well the store experience considers and builds upon the media experience a customer has prior to entering the store. Yes, positivity has always been and still is the winning formula. But how should a store deliver on that? What messages should be conveyed by store employees, and what does that look like?
How Retailers Can Take Action
Start by knowing that social media, which many customers are engaging with just prior to entering a store, has tended to make consumers feel depressed. Often, users believe that others are living a better life and are having more fun than they are. People they follow are posting experiences that can create tremendous FOMO and other anxieties. Nearly 60% of all women under 45 tell us they’re depressed. And super-users of social media tend to experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than others.
Despite its powers of connectivity, social media can be an extremely isolating experience. The vast majority of people’s interaction with all media, in fact, is passive voyeurism. The ability to observe without obligation to respond is the baseline for most of this kind of consumption. Be thoughtful about this when interacting with your customers.
Consider, for example, the benefit of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with,” versus “Can I help you find something?”
The first phrase lets customers know they have help if they need it, without any obligation to engage. This is closely aligned with the media experiences they are used to and doesn’t feel intrusive, yet still offers a positive moment of human connection.
With this in mind, consider other ways your store experience can deliver valued moments like this while factoring in the impact of prior media engagement. The simple act of greeting customers with a smile and wishing them a great day can leave a meaningful imprint. Build on the opportunity for connection by complementing their product selection whether it’s clothes, food, or something else. Thank them for spending time in the store and let them know they can call or email if they need help.
The Value of Human Interactions
These simple human acts are now “the game” in making a retail experience stand out. Why? Because the near constant dopamine hit consumers get from media of all kinds (games, TV, social media, etc.) means that an experience with no dopamine hit will be a negative one. In-store moments with kind and attentive, but unobtrusive, human interaction with customers can help deliver on this craving.
Reflect on your consumer engagement strategy as a media extension – one that will deliver a dopamine hit that is at least as good as what other media delivers, and perhaps even better.