At Retail’s Big Show (2016), Leslie Ghize—EVP of TOBE— described today’s customers as being like balls in a pinball machine, constantly knocked around and bombarded by media and brands.
Indeed, Harvard Business Review points out that as the rapid expansion of social and mobile technologies continues, brands will have more and more opportunities to bombard consumers with marketing messages, but in their aggressive efforts to engage with their customers, they’ll only complicate matters for the consumer.
As a small retailer, you have an opportunity to offer something better…a meaningful customer experience.
“It’s experience above all,” Ghize said. “And customers are willing to immerse themselves in your brand.” Going forward from here, Small Business Trends highlights 8 trends you’ll need to embrace (if you haven’t already) to ensure the kind of experiences that will bring customers back to your store again and again:
1. Rent vs. Buy – Tapping into the sharing economy and businesses such as Uber and Airbnb, 15% of U.S. consumers would like to rent products from stores. Among the most popular products people want to rent are exercise equipment (17%), consumer electronics (15%) and furniture (11%).
These product rentals would basically be operated like a subscription program that lets customers rent a certain amount of the items in question. If you have merchandise that’s past its season, Small Business Trends suggests trying to rent it instead of putting it on clearance.
2. Classes Please – Approximately 32% of consumers would like to attend classes or lessons at stores. Shoppers in the U.S. are most interested in health or fitness classes, cooking classes and learning from experts. Additionally, shoppers are interested in clubs that meet at retail stores.
Whether you teach the class yourself or recruit an employee or local expert, offering classes at your store is a great way to attract new customers. You might also consider offering a discount for purchases made the day of the class to boost your sales. Additionally, you could start a VIP club of your best customers and have monthly special events just for them.
3. Meaningful Rewards – Consumers are increasingly interested in being rewarded for making good life decisions, including recycling, exercising and volunteering for charity.
A quick-service restaurant could offer customers loyalty points for putting cans and bottles and recycling bins, for example, or for using fewer paper napkins. Meanwhile, a sporting goods store could host a running club and give customers rewards for every mile they run with the group.
4. Sensory Experiences – Shoppers want to stimulate all five senses when they pay a visit to brick and mortar stores. While vision and touch are considered the most important senses in the store experience, smell and sound matter, too.
You can make your store stand out from the online experience—or from your direct competitors—by incorporating merchandise that’s appealing and encourages shoppers to touch the products, as well as playing background music that will compliment your brand and the sensory experience it offers.
5. Lounge Mentality – Bombarded and stressed-out consumers are seeking for “slouch”, or relaxation, wherever they can find it. That includes retail stores. Give some thought to how you can incorporate simplicity, leisure, and a sense of calm into your store’s look, feel, and layout.
6. Making Memories – Today’s consumers live in a fleeting digital world where they’re attracted to temporary retail experiences, such as pop-up shops or limited-edition product lines. But there’s also a sense of nostalgia about the pre-digital days. Retailers who can appeal to this retro sensibility in new and clever ways will gain a competitive edge, suggests NRF.
7. Passion & Purpose – “It’s very cool to care right now,” said Ghize. In other words, Your brand’s purpose and mission makes a difference.
Consumers want to spend their money with businesses that share their passions. As a retailer, you should be paying attention to this atmosphere of social consciousness. “Make sure your marketing clarifies your business mission,” says Small Business Trends, “and if you’re involved with charitable or other socially responsible organizations, get your customers involved too.”
8. Uniformity – This trend is a reaction to the customization and personalization that’s currently dominating retail and is increasingly becoming more popular.
Consider strategies for streamlining your store by narrowing your product focus to a few well-curated items and having all of your sales clerks wear uniforms. According to many businesses, uniformity is the wave of the future.