In today’s highly competitive retail landscape, businesses are constantly seeking ways to differentiate themselves and capture consumers’ attention. While flashy marketing campaigns and cutting-edge technology certainly play their part, one of the things that often defined the most successful in-store retail experiences was the invaluable power of nice employees. It’s time for retail to go back to its roots.
From a warm greeting at the entrance to genuine assistance throughout the shopping journey, the value of human interaction and helpful staff members cannot be overstated and differentiates the brick-and-mortar experience from its online counterpart.
E-commerce has opened a world of opportunities to consumers, offering unparalleled convenience as they can shop their favorite stores while lounging on their couch, taking a 10-minute break from work, or even while watching the NHL Finals. The undeniable truth is that online shopping has almost become a reflex action, and is now an integral part of our lives that is here to stay. But it still cannot fully replace the human desire for interaction and experiences that tap into our emotional and social needs.
New motivators and expectations
According to Magid’s most recent wave of the Motivations Study, 70% of consumers still make in-store purchases at least weekly and 64% claim they will be shopping online similarly or less than they did in the past 12 months, demonstrating at least the intent for consumers to continue to make brick-and-mortar stores part of their shopping habits.
The in-store experience continues to be indispensable, as consumers still value what differentiates it from online shopping. Here are some of the top barriers that have prevented shoppers from purchasing online more often:
- Wanting to see/feel the specific product before purchasing (33%)
- The added cost of shipping or return fees (30%)
- Wanting to see certain products in-store before they purchase them (29%)
- Wanting/needing the product right away (29%)
You might want to make sure the shade of your concealer is perfect for your skin tone. Or you might have a “need it now” moment, such as when you hear: “Dad, I forgot to tell you, but my cleats ripped apart at yesterday’s practice.” Dick’s Sporting Goods, here we come in the few minutes we have to spare before today’s game, hoping we get a knowledgeable and pleasant employee that can quickly help us get a size 9 from the backroom.
Need for human connection
But retailers need to not take that demand for granted. In fact, consumers feel the in-store experience is becoming too impersonal, with about 1 in 4 of consumers (27%) agreeing with that statement, although this number significantly varies by retailer. For instance, for certain chains that have a bias toward tech, the benefit of the convenience and efficiency and latest shopping technology run the risk of being offset by the fact that in some cases, almost half of the shoppers feel that the in-store shopping experience has become too impersonal.
Sometimes you just want a smiling face and perhaps a place “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” like your very own Cheers. For me, that’s my town’s local coffee shop, the Glenview Grind, where I often get a “Hello, Coach Hugo!” from employees I used to coach in youth baseball.
I’m not alone in that feeling – it’s consistent with our Motivations Study findings that one of the top five ranked items that matter to consumers when shopping in-store is that the employees “recognize or acknowledge me.” In addition, many consumers recognize the value of technology but actually prefer staffed registers versus self-checkout. This can be another opportunity for retailers to shine through their employees.
Trader Joe’s is a great example of a brand who capitalizes on their friendly employees to turn shoppers into superfans. Even if you’re not a regular, you can count on a smile and greeting as well as a positive comment about your purchase items. You leave the store with a positive feeling. By engaging in friendly conversations, understanding and remembering their preferences for future visits, employees can establish a rapport and create a sense of familiarity. This relationship-building aspect can enhance customer loyalty and encourage repeat business.
The bottom line
By recognizing that being nice isn’t limited to childhood lessons learned on the playground, retailers can harness the power of human connection, transforming routine transactions into memorable experiences that leave customers eager to return – driving sales, fostering customer loyalty, and creating a positive environment for shoppers and employees alike. It’s what the best in the business have known all along – and something that in today’s changing retail landscape is more important than ever.
If you want to learn more about what your consumers are looking for, how to maximize your in-store experience, or reducing turnover, reach out to me (email@example.com) or any of my Magid colleagues at LetsTalk@Magid.com.