a retail employee using a tablet while trying to improve the retail customer experience

8 Ways to Improve the Retail Customer Experience

Are brick-and-mortar stores dead?  For retail businesses, the online experience may feel paramount. But the research is in, and studies show that even younger shoppers spend about 50% of their shopping time visiting in-person stores to try on items, experience the brand in real life, or experience the product before purchasing.  So, how should a brand nail the customer experience for in-store shoppers? Here are eight ways to improve your retail customer experience.

What is Retail Customer Experience? 

Retail customer experience is the experience a brand gives its customers and anyone who engages with the brand, primarily through the in-store, or retail, experience. However, all retail brands with an online presence should consider their online experience part of the retail customer experience.  As most customers shop across multiple channels—both online and in-person—throughout their purchase journey, it’s essential for retail brands to look at their customer experience across all touchpoints, from in-store to social media to websites and beyond.  In any case, the retail brands surviving and thriving in 2022 are creating an unforgettable retail customer experience that is consistent and memorable across all touchpoints.

8 Ways to Improve Customer Experience in Retail Stores

Great customer experience has significant benefits for brands in 2022—not only can you enhance sales and improve customer loyalty, but you can also improve long-term customer retention, boost customer lifetime value, and spark increased advocacy from customers.  Here are eight ways to improve retail customer experiences to build your brand in 2022.

1. Start With Your Employees 

Great customer service from employees is the foundation for incredible retail customer experiences. And excellent employee service starts with great employee training.  Whether your customers interact with employees in person at a store, over the phone, or via social media or electronic communication, customers must have a consistently positive brand experience, no matter where the interaction occurs.  For retail brands, that means: 
  • Training in-store employees in customer service and advocacy.
  • Deepening employee knowledge of your products and offerings so employees can make personalized and knowledgeable recommendations for in-store shoppers. 
  • Ensuring your customer call center features agents who are familiar with and passionate about your brand. 
  • Training for all employees helps each employee deliver a consistent brand experience. 
If your brand uses outsourced call centers or omnichannel support, ensuring that you hire customer-centric call center agents goes a long way in delivering a positive retail customer experience.

2. Offer Consistent Customer Experiences Across All Channels 

Of course, your in-store experience isn’t the only place where consumers will interact with your brand. According to a recent retail industry study, 73% of shoppers used multiple channels during their purchase journey.  Whether customers are discovering you on Instagram, bookmarking favorite items via your website, waiting for a sale through your email newsletter, trying on items in-store, or taking advantage of in-store pickup, there are many ways customers engage with your brand. To deliver a competitive retail customer experience, you must provide a consistent omnichannel experience.  How? Ensure that your customer service is consistent across all channels. For example, your call center employees and in-store employees should receive similar training and be able to answer questions with consistent information and a personalized touch.  Further, retail brands that offer in-store digitization to connect the online and in-person shopping experience will have a leg up when it comes to customer experience. In-store digitization can include things like: 
  • Smart mirrors that offer users the opportunity to share pictures or items with friends 
  • QR codes to scan for more details 
  • Order online, in-store pickup options 
  • Digital displays that allow consumers to virtually “try on” makeup, visualize products in their home, or otherwise “test out” products 
Connect your in-person and online experiences to foster a deeper connection along the customer journey and improve brand loyalty.

3. Personalize the Customer Experience 

In 2022, one of the best ways of improving CX in retail is to personalize each customer’s experience. A 2022 study by Twilio revealed that 62% of customers have come to expect personalization, saying that the brand will “lose their loyalty if the experience is not personalized.”  That’s a steep price to pay for providing mundane customer experiences! Luckily, there are almost endless ways to personalize the customer experience. Merging online and offline customer data—which is easy if you’re using an omnichannel customer support model—is a great way to provide increasingly personalized customer experiences.  How can you create a personalized customer experience? Through both small and large gestures, such as: 
  • Celebrating customer birthdays with a gift or reward 
  • Sending personalized coupons and recommendations based on past purchase history 
  • Providing various and contactless payment options at in-store and online checkouts
  • Creating immersive and engaging in-store experiences 
  • Allowing customers to link in-store and online accounts and experiences (such as at Fabletics’ stores, where customers can scan items they’re trying on via an iPad outside the fitting room, and items are added to their online account for easy online purchasing)
Personalization should always be data-driven.

4. Host Events or Have In-Store Experiences 

Another way to provide memorable, positive retail experiences is to host events or experiences in-store.  Younger generations, particularly millennials, crave experiences over products, and 78% of millennials said they would rather spend money on a desirable experience than a desirable product. At the same time, the younger generations aren’t shopping-averse: in fact, Gen Z and Millennial shoppers both said they shop about half online and half in-person—partly because they want to enjoy the in-person retail experience.  So, how do you provide a retail experience that keeps customers returning? Provide unique in-store experiences that bring your customers to you not only for a purchase but also for a valuable experience. These experiences could be: 
  • Rewards for regulars, such as a cooking experience with a chef or members-only events on topics related to your industry 
  • A service offering, such as how REI offers gear repair or garage sales for co-op members 
  • Industry-related experiences, such as painting classes or paint nights for a craft materials store or weekly yoga classes at many outdoor retailers
  • Bring in augmented reality to enhance the shopping and try-on experience
Not only do these in-store experiences improve customers’ retail experiences, but they also give customers an “excuse” to keep coming back to your store.

5. Encourage Social Sharing And Community-Building In-Store

Just because the purchase doesn’t happen on social media doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a social purchase! Integrating the social experience in your brick-and-mortar locations is an excellent way to improve the retail customer experience and boost customer advocacy. How can you enhance social sharing throughout your in-store experience? 
  • Have spaces in your stores to relax or hang out with friends. 
  • Create “Instagrammable” spaces in your stores, such as stunning displays, artistic decor and wall backgrounds, or photo-worthy backdrops.
  • Incorporate sharable features in stores, such as smart mirrors, rewards for those who share their experiences online, scavenger hunts, and more.  
In short, to improve customer experience and advocacy through social sharing, make sure your stores are not just shoppable but sharable.

6. Prioritize Design With The Customer In Mind

With over 50% of customers shopping in-store before buying online, in-store design matters. Whether you’re just starting your brick-and-mortar presence or are an established retail leader in your industry, prioritize your in-store design with your customers’ comfort in mind.
  • Are there couches to sit on while a friend tries on clothes?
  • Are products easy to find and in a logical layout in the store? 
  • Is the experience of walking through the store from the front door to check-out intuitive and easy? 
  • Is the checkout process seamless? Does it integrate online details, such as coupons or loyalty programs? 
Be aware of pain points or examples of poor customer experience that you want to avoid. Your online presence can also be a great way to use the omnichannel experience to save customers time while shopping in person. You can implement offers like ordering online with in-store pickup, home delivery for large items, and ordering or requesting items to try on via iPad rather than waiting for an associate. Of course, you also want the in-store experience to be leisurely and relaxed. Big, established retail stores often nail this—for example, stores like Target and Barnes and Nobles have cafes in-store to encourage relaxation, lingering during your visit, and enjoying yourself. Many Canada Goose stores have “Cold Rooms” that are set to -13°F where customers can go in to test out the coats they’re thinking about buying. Some rooms even have windchill and snowstorm simulations so that customers can ensure the coat they buy will be well-suited to real-world winters.

8. Talk to Your Customers 

Finally, perhaps the best way to improve your customer experience in retail stores is to simply talk to your customers and get feedback. Asking customers to complete a post-purchase survey, leave a review online, or provide feedback (often in exchange for a chance to win a reward) is a great way to gather customer feedback. 

Final Thoughts

Improving your customer experience in-store and across channels is one of the best ways to set your brand apart. And it’s not that hard!  When looking for a CX partner, find a company that prioritizes the customer’s perspective. Omnichannel customer experience management should be person-focused, seamless, and efficient. Customers should feel like your brand is putting them first – and never know they’re talking to a third-party contact center.  To get more retail experience tips or learn about J-Curve’s customer success stories, contact us today