Emotions drive the majority of our purchase decisions and most are at a deep rooted subconscious level. Our previous blog on neuroscience research reviewed the new tools available for marketers that are wanting a stronger understanding of how their customers feel towards various research stimuli. However, there are a variety of factors marketers and retailers can consider as part of their customer experience to ramp-up the emotional engagement and effectiveness of their retail channel.
Over the past 30 years of helping retailers drive greater loyalty to their brands, and through countless research studies from leaders in the field, such as Envirosell and Hotspex, we have identified five key levers for retailers to consider as they evaluate the effectiveness of their branded environments. In identifying these levers, we have used the eight emotional zones put forth by Hotspex (Leader, Knowledgeable, Protective, Down-to-Earth, Nurturing, Friendly, Fun, and Exciting) as a foundation of the emotional factors driving purchases in-store. These levers impact the majority of brands that are competing in a physical environment:
The Clarity Lever
It is really hard to engage and sell a consumer who is frustrated or is in an anxious frame of mind. A key factor driving this level of anxiety is what the industry has come to define as friction points in the shopping journey. These friction points, representing low value and at times confusing elements of the customer journey, lead to a high level of frustration and discontent. Retailers need to review their various shopper personas and corresponding purchase journey to understand where the experience fails to align with a customers needs.
Eliminating friction points starts with effective store exterior signage that helps customers find the right retailer on a cluttered street or in a shopping mall. From there, consideration must be put into how intuitive the store is to shop, such as the service level, hours of operation and the time it takes to complete a transaction. Retailers need to pay great attention to all those friction points in the customer journey, which have the potential of leading to a negative experience.
The Discovery Lever
Whether it is online, mobile or in-store, there are an increasing number of ways for customers to purchase similar items, which means that retailers need to provide a strong reason for customers to visit a physical store. Creating a sense of discovery–which has made Costco so successful–can help drive a strong desire for a given retailer and overcome potential friction points inherent in shopping at a store (parking, traffic, congestion, out-of-stock, poor service, long check-out lines, etc.).
To help foster a sense of discovery, create a store layout, signage and product offering that allows trial and experimentation. Chains such as Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and The Source have all learned the power of driving engagement through product discovery zones within their stores.
The Fun Lever
Many retail visits are seen by customers as a daily or weekly chore, and leading chains have learned to turn this negative into a fun shopping experience through new store designs, better story telling, different discovery and engagement zones as well as a combination of related services (think Capital One Cafés).
Fun is not limited to the physical environment, as your staff play a critical role in engaging the customer and establishing the tone and manner of your store. Greater staff training and the introduction of gamification as part of the shopping process can make what used to be a chore something to look forward to. JetBlue, for example, has overcome the chore of flying by having highly engaged and funny employees who are entertainers just as much as they are flight attendants.
The Belonging Lever
A strong emotional lever is driving a sense of belonging in both the offering and experience in a retail environment. Nike, Starbucks, Tesla and Apple have all created experiences that drive a sense of belonging for shoppers. In our book Belonging Experiences, we explored in great detail how these brands, along with others, have built experiences reflecting the aspirational needs and desires of their customers that go beyond selling products or services.
Lululemon, for example, conducts extremely well attended yoga workshops before their stores open, reinforcing a shared lifestyle value with its customers while also providing a platform for individuals to meet and network. The Running Room chain offers planned daily jogs where members can sign up, track their performance on the retailer’s website and share their experiences with like minded individuals.
The Recognition Lever
Customer recognition is probably the oldest bedrock of driving loyalty for many retailers. Increasing the service levels in-store and the ability of the staff to better engage with customers is critical in meeting the emotional needs for customers to be recognized and rewarded for their loyalty and repeat purchases.
Retailers need to revisit their customer service metrics and staff training, as many of these have been severely undermined due to staff reductions. Though online sales are increasing every year, it’s important to remember that consumers shop at stores to engage with people and not machines or technology. While technology can support greater shopper recognition through geo-fenced mobile offers and digital signs that cater to a customers age group or shopper profile, recognition ultimately comes from understanding the individual shoppers persona and shopping mission on a personal level.
Leveraging the emotional needs of customers is based on some fundamental levers most retailers know intuitively. The real challenge is ensuring these levers are effectively incorporated into the shopping experience and help meet the emotional needs of customers.