How to Create a Positive Retail Environment

Emotions are very powerful drivers in purchase decisions, and positive emotional experiences will build brand loyalty. The following five strategies can help retailers create a strong and memorable connection with customers, including eliminating key friction points, telling a compelling story, ensuring a coherent omni-channel strategy, delivering a unique experience, and catering to the senses.

Strategy One: Eliminate Key Friction Points

There is nothing that kills a great shopping experience like bad service. Whether it’s an employee who can’t give a clear answer, too many confusing options, or challenges with payment, friction points in the customer journey need to be avoided. These negative experiences drive a high level of anxiety for patrons, effectively countering the entire benefit of the experience. Technology is a key enabler in solving some of these challenges, from a great online presence–where customers can learn about products–to the use of tablets that simplify ordering and payment.

Strategy Two: Tell a Compelling Story

Storytelling is the foundation of how brands effectively engage with customers. Today’s snap-chatting, selfie-taking consumer appreciates tools that help them tell their unique story–which creates an emotionally charged experience. The simple belief that a retail communication strategy should focus on value-driven, price sensitive and selection-focused messages lacks the differentiating power that will sustain a chain or single operator.

Customers are looking for more. Storytelling needs to be leveraged to tell the life story of the founders, since people buy from people and not companies. How the products are sourced and made, and unique customer stories are also compelling messages. Retailers need to answer this simple question: what is your unique story that will engage and emotionally connect with your customers? For the brand that finds a way to encourage customers to share their own stories through the brand experience, that is the holy grail of storytelling success.

Strategy Three: Ensure a Coherent Omni-Channel Experience

Retailers have come to realize that the customer journey typically starts online, where customers look up products and store locations. Then there is the actual in-store experience, and the journey comes full circle with online customer reviews and commentary.

At each of these moments of truth (online, mobile, and the physical experience), it is critical that the message around the brand remains consistent and relevant to customers. For example, a website that features a different look or products than are found in-store will create confusion or frustration–which could lead to indecision or mistaken orders. A coherent message and experience, irrespective of the channel, will reduce the likelihood of negative emotions. It is important to assess if there are broken links in the various moments of truth and how they can be eliminated.

Strategy Four: Make it a Unique Experience

The majority of Millennials believe it’s more important to enjoy an experience than purchase a product. For retailers, it is critical to deliver a differentiated and emotionally charged experience, and this factor should be given equal weight in importance as providing great products. Every aspect of the experience, from lighting and textures to sight-lines plays an important role in creating a positive and memorable experience. Reading store reviews will help to determine if your experience is connecting with customers.

Strategy Five: Cater to the Senses

Many studies have validated that our senses are the biggest influencers on how we feel about brands and experiences. Sensory triggers play to a customer’s deep emotional needs from a sense of delight, excitement, discovery, pleasure and fulfillment. How each of the senses can be accentuated and differentiated plays a key role in delivering desire for a given retailer versus another. Everyone has experienced negative feelings as they enter a store and touch dirty surfaces or are bombarded by blaring music. Retailers need to pay great attention to all of the sensory factors as part of the customer experience with the goal of ensuring emotionally positive and differentiated sensory triggers.

Visiting a store, irrespective of it’s alone or in a large group, is an experience defined by the emotional memory attached to it. The way the customer feels about what they experienced makes all the difference. Retailers need to view their store as a vehicle for creating memorable emotional connections with their customers. This can only be achieved by eliminating the friction points and lack of a unique experience that undermines brand loyalty, and heightening the emotional impact.