Customers are always on the lookout for value, but did you know that up to 86 percent of customers say they will pay more for improved experiences? Studies over the past several years have yielded similar conclusions, and those numbers are not getting any smaller. Our lives are busier than ever, so we have become as frugal about how we spend our time as we are about spending money. People everywhere are opting for a better experience versus saving a few dollars.
Improved shopping experiences are what set the top retailers apart from the competition in today’s fast-paced multichannel world, with aggregated shopping experiences and price matching becoming the norm.
Here’s a list of retailers that have harnessed the power of new technology to create better experiences for their customers.
Shopping for clothing can be a nightmare. Who hasn’t wasted an entire evening hunting for the right sizes only to leave empty-handed? What if you could use your smart phones to scan a tag, select a size, and then visit the dressing room which is stocked with exactly what you need? That is the experience Hointer provides at their flagship store in Seattle, where there are virtually no salespeople. Once they are finished shopping, customers just swipe a credit card at the unmanned kiosk on the way out the door.
Hointer is actually selling the confidential technology as a stand-alone product to other retailers who want to enjoy the spoils of the word-of-mouth attention Hointer is getting for their highly innovative experience.
Check out this video to see how it works:
Sephora has embraced the way modern customers want to shop, rather than fight a losing battle with showrooming. Doing so helped them grow their mobile shopping channel more than 150 percent from 2012 – 2013. Developing a specific mobile app to provide value to their customers wherever they are while offering free wifi in the Sephora stores has kept customers buying from them. Sephora customers use their smart phones to access prior purchases, read customer reviews, learn about new products, and see product demos. Sephora To Go mobile app users can also pay for their purchases quickly and easily. The app also allows customers to easily share their latest beauty obsessions with friends on social media, directly from the app. An astounding two million plus users have downloaded the app.
Walmart has invested in helping customers blend their digital and physical experiences in ways very few retailers have done. They offer a robust mobile app that allows iPhone users to create shopping lists by scanning bar codes while they shop or using voice input. Customers can check price or product availability, thanks to precise and integrated inventory data, and even find the aisle locations of items on their list. Walmart also has scan-and-go mobile payment for smartphone wielding customers. And instead of offering an official, specific loyalty program, Walmart uses multiple points of data to gain insight into customer behavior. They then build programs for the technology customers use around the reasons they are most likely to use it.
This leading retailer uses smart screens to serve more relevant ads to those waiting in line in their gas stations. "OptimEyes" technology senses the demographics of the viewer and serves more targeted messages accordingly. The advertising also changes based on time and date, and monitors the types of products being purchased. This same technology provides viewers with scannable QR codes and social media hashtags, turning idle line waiters into active shoppers and evangelists.
Customers are being driven to shop IN stores based on social media recommendations they spot, according to a study by Vision Critical. And it's a welcome change. Shoppers find what they love on Pinterest, for example, and then head to the store to buy that item. Some retailers, like Nordstrom, are leveraging social showrooming by highlighting the “most pinned” items. This direct relationship between technology and old-fashioned product display helps engage customers on both ends of the social and technology spectrum.
Technology is not separate from the customer experience
Managing retail inventory and distribution are only a part of it. To customers, technology is there to make things easier, more informative, and more memorable as part of the entire customer experience. The best retailers will invest in technology that enhances the experience from the customer perspective. Doing so will lead to increased sales, improved word-of-mouth and long-term loyalty.
Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Creative Commons license.
/ Jeannie Walters is the CEO and Founder of 360Connext, a global customer experience consulting firm dedicated to creating fewer ruined days for customers- improving loyalty, customer retention, and overall customer experience.