What goes into delivering a ‘wow’ shopping experience?
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
What defines a “wow” depends on the shopper and type of store, but hassle-free customer support is at the top of the list, finds a recent study from Wharton’s Baker Retailing Center and The Verde Group.
The survey of 9,400 consumers exploring what consistently “surprised and delighted” customers found that great service can be as heroic as a sales associate going above and beyond to help a customer find just the right item or as mundane as a clean, well-organized store.
“Whether you’re a specialty retailer or a big box or category killer or a mass merchandiser, whatever your value proposition is, the essence of that value proposition [and] delivering on it seemed to be the No. 1 thing that defined greatness and ‘wow’ for consumers,” Verde CEO Paula Courtney recently said on a Knowledge@Wharton podcast.
Some of the highest-ranked customer “wows” are:
- Fast, free shipping
- Easy returns
- Problem-free shopping
- Well-stocked inventory
- A great app or website for online shopping
- Attention to detail in packaging
Interestingly, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made shoppers any less demanding — or forgiving. If they encounter supply chain problems, staffing issues or other obstacles that create friction, they simply shop somewhere else.
“What we learned, which is surprising, is that consumers are not giving retailers a hall pass for the pandemic,” Ms. Courtney said.
Thomas Robertson, a marketing professor and director of the Baker Retailing Center, believes well-trained sales associates are a big part of a successful retail strategy.
Those jobs have been slashed in large numbers, however, and replaced by online chatbots or nothing at all. Customers are left frustrated and feeling the friction, he said.
“I think a major opportunity that is being missed that could help retailers deliver ‘wow’ experiences would be to value professional sales associates,” Mr. Robertson noted, adding that he isn’t sure whether those jobs will rebound after the pandemic.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has online shopping largely replaced stores as the place consumers expect to be wowed as they shop? How have the parameters around what creates a “wow” experience at retail changed or remained the same in recent years?