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How retailers can put ‘a spring in the step’ for shoppers and drive them in-store

The retail picture in the UK has improved fairly dramatically from the rather bleak forecasts of the winter. The Office for National Statistics estimates retail sales volumes rose by 0.5% in April 2023, following a fall of 1.2% in March 2023 (revised from a fall of 0.9%). Sales volumes rose by 0.8% in the three months to April 2023 when compared with the previous three months; the highest rate since August 2021.

While it might not be singing from the rooftops territory with ongoing inflation still biting, it is certainly a huge improvement from where we were even a few months ago, putting a spring in the step for retailers.

Our recent research revealed several factors that could drive people into store and away from the over-reliance on online shopping that has developed since the pandemic. By focusing on the benefits of the in-person experience, retailers can truly benefit.

The shopping experience is critical, not an afterthought

The research clearly highlights that experience trumps everything else when it comes to the physical journey. 60% of respondents cite a pleasant environment as an important factor in a great retail experience.

From the moment the shopper walks in, lead them on an immersive journey towards the checkout, with creative displays and merchandising and where possible, provide an opportunity for customers to interact with the products. All this should be backed up by product availability, highlighted promotions and all-round first-class customer service. Staff should be readily available on the shop floor and queues at the the till should be kept to a minimum. An investment in staff is an investment in your future profitability.

Have your promotions strategy in place

Despite an improving outlook, inflation is still very high and consumers are feeling the pinch. Grabbing a bargain becomes more important than ever with higher food and fuel prices sucking up household income. 59% of respondents in our survey agreed, saying promotions were vital. Making sure your offers are competitive with online channels and have your promotions clearly visible will entice hard-pressed consumers to open their wallets. Finding a price that works for you and the consumer will help to create a positive feeling and encourage return visits. Combined with a great experience in-store, retailers can benefit from a real competitive advantage over the rather soulless ecommerce experience.

The people of this country have (not) had enough of experts

Contrary to what Michael Gove might believe, the country has not had enough of experts. Our research found that 42% of consumers want to engage with knowledgeable shop staff as a key reason for their visit. This is where physical retail comes into its own, as staff can meet consumers desires and enable the store to positively influence the shopper journey. Too often we are seeing a rather nonchalant approach to customers, which often results in lost opportunities.

While an attentive, expert approach has been favoured in the consumer electronics category, not enough focus is given to ensuring staff are well trained and ready to answer questions across the full retail estate whether that includes prams, garden furniture or sports equipment. A well-trained expert can be worth their weight in gold, particularly with considered purchases. This will leave a positive imprint encoded on the memory. Humans still want to speak to humans and this remains the best way to build lifetime value from a regular shopper.

Try before you buy is timeless

In our survey, the top reason given for in-person shopping versus online is to try before you buy (47%). The opportunity for physical retailers to play to their strengths here is huge, with this 47% equating to £233bn in spending based on 2022’s retail sales, according to Statista. Make sure you have products effectively merchandised and encourage the consumer into the tactile journey of discovery that can help them to move from discovery to purchase. It is crucial here to have the right expert on hand to assist the process, with all the senses of the shopper engaged in a truly immersive physical experience that will lead them toward the check out.

The modern retail experience is sociable

The modern retail experience is underpinned by sociability, combining a trip with meeting friends and dining. Our research showed that 45% of people combine shopping with a meal out, (rising to 53% of 35 - 44 year olds) and 30% with meeting a friend for a coffee/ drinks (rising to 40% of 25-34 year olds). Meanwhile, 55% of us prefer shopping for the home with family and friends versus 39% who do it solo. Retailers and brands need to complement this by providing an enticing and human-centred experience. Think imaginatively about partnerships with local restaurants or cinemas, or offer deals and discounts for people who recommend products to friends.

Retailers must think creatively about how to enhance the customer experience. A great environment, attentive and knowledgeable staff and promotions complementing a sociable retail journey are critical. As we look towards a sunnier climate, retailers can champion the timeless values of a good in-store retail experience. Let’s put a spring back in the step for physical retail.

Daniel Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Gekko .

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