Retail:Next Studies: Investing in the Shopper Experience
Price, product selection and technology can only take you so far in retailing
today because they can be matched by competitors. When it comes to creating
happy consumers, retailers need to deliver unique shopping experiences and
customer service that meets shoppers’ expectations. Living up to those expectations
is what ultimately determines how consumers perceive a retailer. Those are
the key takeaways from the third in the Retail:Next series of RetailWire surveys
conducted by Dechert-Hampe & Co. As opposed to gathering consumer perceptions, the series polls the retail industry experts and practitioners that make up the RetailWire.com audience.
Earlier this week, during a webinar to announce the results of the research, Ben
Ball, senior vice president, Dechert-Hampe, told attendees that responses to
the question of what determines customer satisfaction broke out into three
- Shopping experience and customer satisfaction.
- Product assortment.
“Shopper experience and customer service clearly separated themselves from
the rest of the pack.” said Mr. Ball. “That makes a lot of sense
when you think about it. ‘Does the store meet my expectations?’ ‘Was I well
taken care of if I had a problem?’ Those are the first two things I want to
know as a consumer or shopper. Product assortment sort of fell in the middle
range here. ‘Could I find what I need?’ And interestingly enough, ‘Was I happy
with the price in terms of deals, promotions, etc.?'”
Here are the factors that most influence the shopping experience, according to
our survey respondents, using a five-point scale:
Ultimately, the study showed, the fundamentals of retailing
Chris O’Malley, director of retail marketing for Intel Corporation’s
Embedded & Communications Group (sponsor of the study), observed, for example,
that “technology by itself is relatively useless.” Technology in
the retail environment only works, he said, if it helps stimulate various shopping
behaviors that lead to sales.
A case in point is the Apple Store, which respondents rated well above all
others as the retailer delivering the best shopping experience.
Dechert-Hampe’s Ball, some might question how the research could show technology
being down on the list of ways to improve the shopping experience when Apple,
a store that totally revolves around the use and sale of technology, tops the
list of retailers that get it.
“People are underestimating Apple’s mastery of the fundamentals,” he
said. “If it were just the technology, Circuit City and CompUSA would
have been on this list instead of in Chapter 11. I think the ability to experience
the products that Apple provides; the knowledgeable brand advocates that are
there in the store; the encouragement to have you be completely immersed in
the technology and the applications; the product themselves; and right down
to the customer service provided by the Genius Bar are all outstanding examples
of Apple understanding and really maximizing the fundamentals of the shopper
experience. Now they are also using technology because that’s their product
to do it in a very differentiated way.”
Discussion Questions: What do you think are the top factors influencing
the customer experience in stores today? What means to improving the customer
experience do you think are most commonly overlooked?