Will UX methodologies bolster retail’s brick & mortar future?

Discussion
Dec 04, 2015

With the never ending concern over the ever changing role of brick & mortar retail and debates on how retailers can stay relevant in a world of continued e-commerce growth and rapidly ramping m-commerce adoption, a lesson from the user experience (UX) designer’s playbook provides guidance to more engaging and fruitful consumer shopping experiences ahead.

UX is famously based upon the principle of delighting users (customers). The people officially tasked with that responsibility, UX designers, are mandated to be the "voice of the consumer" and to represent their interests and happiness at every touch point.

There are a number of facets to UX design, starting from research and flowing through prototyping, testing, implementing, retesting, and iteration. Done well, the process absolutely makes user experiences better and more pleasing — something always needed in retail.

There’s one paradigm in particular that retailer’s will benefit from if they adopt and morph into the physical shopping experience. It’s foundational to what UX designers seek to accomplish. It’s reducing the number of clicks. In other words, if a website checkout process can reduce the number of clicks from four to two, consumers will notice and be appreciative. It’s not hype. Amazon patented "one-click checkout" in 1999.

Customer at J.Crew

Photo: RetailWire

In brick & mortar retail, "clicks" can be seen as the number of steps a shopper must go through to move from product desire to ownership. Apple understood this when it empowered associates to check out consumers sans cash register, anywhere in the store.

Checkout is just one multi-step process. Another crucial activity worth scrutinizing (amongst many) is product discovery. Depending upon the retailer, it can be tedious, frustrating, and downright deal breaking.

By examining (through the consumer’s lens) the micro-journeys people embark upon during a shopping trip and reevaluating for methods to reduce "clicks," retailers can amp up the likelihood that people will make purchases in-store. By committing to trashing impediments, making information accessible, and intentionally injecting moments of excitement, surprise, reward, and met expectations, burdensome and unnecessary "clicks" can be ripped away. Customer experience is then elevated, organically motivating shoppers to share and evangelize for the brand.

Retailers willing to apply UX methodologies to each in-store consumer experience and the shopping excursion as a whole, unquestionably position themselves to remain relevant and offer benefits that m/e-commerce cannot. Inexplicably, it seems to me, the majority of merchants don’t recognize the need nor dedicate resources to address this. Why?

Are most retailers actively engaged in designing user experiences that meet the needs of customers at touch points throughout shopping trips in stores? What opportunities including and beyond reducing “clicks” do you see that retailers can improve the in-store customer experience?

Braintrust
"Even with the retailers that are somewhat focused on the shopper experience, their objective is to get the shopper to walk out of the store with a purchase."
"Far too many retailers have not evolved the basic shopping experience in their stores for literally decades. Seriously, many store designers continue to leverage the old mantra, "Build it and they will come.""

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9 Comments on "Will UX methodologies bolster retail’s brick & mortar future?"

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Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Even with the retailers that are somewhat focused on the shopper experience, their objective is to get the shopper to walk out of the store with a purchase. As long as that is their mindset, they will never be fully successful. It must be reversed. First focus on the shopper experience and then go further — don’t care if the shopper walks out with a purchase. What the shopper walk out of the store with is an online connection that leads to a purchase. If that is successful, the shopper now has the store in their home, on their phone and the possibility of making multiple purchases without ever again stopping at the store. That is a huge win.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Far too many retailers have not evolved the basic shopping experience in their stores for literally decades. Seriously, many store designers continue to leverage the old mantra, “Build it and they will come.” This is also true for the majority of online shopping experiences. I think executives across a retail organization need to visit stores and their online presences regularly. This doesn’t always happen. Visiting what the shopper sees adds new perspectives and opportunities for improvement. Look at promotion visibility, traffic flow. Where are they browsing and where are they buying? How about POS? Where are the pains?

Gajendra Ratnavel
BrainTrust

Optimizing product placement is an area of user experience that can be improved. This needs data and can be improved over time.

An easy way to do it is to have a small popup card on the shelf indicating where in the store are complementary products, or something sort of like the “people that bought this also bought” idea.

Kim Garretson
Guest
Kim Garretson
1 year 10 months ago

I know it’s hard to compare one in-store experience to another, especially in different categories, but I continue to point to Trader Joe’s as the best example of a retailer whose UX stands above most others. Here is a good Forbes article on this.

“The secrets are all in plain view on the shelves and within their consumer base. Enjoy the treasure hunt and visit their product demonstration stands for a taste of their authenticity!”

Herb Sorensen
BrainTrust

Simple. Bricks retailers have been for 100 years merchant warehousemen, NOT salesmen. They build these huge neighborhood warehouses, stock them, and take the cash from their unpaid stock-pickers at the exit. SELF-service means literally, shopper sell yourself.

NO PART of 100 years of wildly successful self-service retail, globally, has involved any kind of detailed understanding of the shopper, of the kind UX MUST be built on. Further, techies rooting around at the edge of this have really vague understandings of shoppers.

I have talked to more than one technology company flushing millions down the drain, based on their discussions with retailers about the shoppers’ needs. ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

For exceptions to this just check the global retailer rankings, and see who is moving up, and who is moving down. Costco up to #2 from well down in the rankings, Amazon always growing, growing, growing, Walmart stumbling about throwing large sums at misguided — or poorly executed — tech initiatives. Kroger doing well quarter after quarter, year after year. Tesco disintegrating, with late half-measures. Good grief. Numbers don’t lie, and UX is at the heart of every one of these: Selling Like Amazon… in Bricks & Mortar Stores!

gordon arnold
Guest

Retail is overburdened with well-educated professionals that can’t recount the last time they worked for one or more days on the floor of a non experimenting store. If they did, the clamor for consumer feedback and user experience information would never again be a priority search.

I have always found it interesting how the higher the retail employee position, the further away from customers they are and prefer to stay. Is it any wonder there are so little necessary improvements made for the consumer and the business?

Martin Mehalchin
BrainTrust

Embedding design principles in customer strategy is a major focus of our work here at Lenati. Along with “delighting” users (customers), UX design is as much or more about creating effortless experiences.

As Ralph mentions, many retail experiences, especially mall based ones, have not changed in decades. I believe that the current struggles of the department store category can be at least partially attributed to this “experience inertia.”

The good news is that retailers have unprecedented opportunities to overcome their inertia:

  • In-store analytics solutions using Beacons or similar technologies allow retailers to apply a web analytics mindset to brick and mortar experiences. We’ve helped clients use this type of analysis to make seemingly small changes to layout or flow that resulted in tremendous lift in both experience scores and resulting sales.
  • Some of our most forward thinking clients are looking at pioneering brands like Apple and Starbucks and designing for a future of “shopping in a logged in state.” This involves not only creating the value exchange to motivate consumers to log-in in the first place but also thinking about how a logged-in model can benefit the customer experience, employee experience and operating efficiency of the stores.
Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

This goes both ways. But both need a lot of work, IMO. There’s a simplicity on the clicks side that needs adapting at bricks and then there’s the human element that needs work in the reverse. Fun times, lots to do.

Jonathan Lupo
Guest
Jonathan Lupo
1 year 10 months ago

The best chance a retailer has in retaining a loyal customer base is to think like a service designer, and beyond that “next touchpoint,” be it the in-store experience or the ecommerce channel, to the larger ecosystem of interactions between customers, agents of the business, and the brand.

Taking a holistic view of the ecosystem of interactions requires the retailer to understand the brand’s promise to the market, in order to use it as a lens to evaluate whether that promise is being consistently delivered to each actor (customer and employee) at each point of engagement. Next, the retailer should define which key performance indicators are important to measure (beyond “clicks” and “conversion”) in each phase of the lifecycle of the customer.

Dimensionalizing the service in terms of each phase of engagement provides an actionable framework for the identification, collection, measurement and projection of meaningful data to evaluate the success of each point of engagement in the larger ecosystem of interactions.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Even with the retailers that are somewhat focused on the shopper experience, their objective is to get the shopper to walk out of the store with a purchase."
"Far too many retailers have not evolved the basic shopping experience in their stores for literally decades. Seriously, many store designers continue to leverage the old mantra, "Build it and they will come.""

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