No storeowner can escape the message that the “customer experience” is as important as your collections of leotards and dance shoes. But it’s not always simple to figure out exactly what will create that lasting memorable connection with your store. One fun event can fade in customers’ minds, after all. But think of the barbershop of old, a community gathering spot as well as a place of business. In community formation lingo, it’s what’s called a third place (after home and work)—a public space where people gather and interact and have a sense of belonging. How can you create something akin to that?
“Retail stores do not just compete with other competitive stores or the internet for people’s money,” according to Klaus Sommer Paulsen, CEO and founder of experience design studio AdventureLAB. “The competition is with anyone and anything that claims people’s time and money.” To help stimulate your creative thinking about the customer experience at your store, here are questions that the experts at AdventureLAB ask their clients to consider when working with them to create memorable retail spaces.
1 Why should people visit your store, apart from buying products?
2 What overall headline or theme would you provide to your store experience?
3 What feeling do you want people to have from visiting your store?
4 What do you want store visitors to talk about after they leave, apart from products and pricing?
5 What do your customers dread most in their everyday life, and how can you create a space that represents the exact opposite?
6 What do your customers love to do most, and how can you create a space that caters to, or celebrates, that?
7 What will you do to keep the store experience fresh and updated, and how will you manage that?
Brainstorm with your staff, and even your customers, for fresh ideas to create a unique dance hub for your community.
How they’re different
When millennial parents shop, service ranks ahead of convenience, selection and loyalty programs, according to the National Retail Federation’s quarterly Consumer View report, released this spring. Millennial parents are different from other parents both in their lifestyle and shopping choices, the report reveals. Millennial parents? Well, yes. Millennials are parents to half of today’s children (80 percent of these parents are in their 30s), and more than 1 million millennial women—think potential dance moms—become new mothers each year.
So how are these parents different? Not surprisingly, they are often in a hurry, so they value conveniences like subscription services (40 percent of them use them, compared to 18 percent of other parents). And of course they love their mobile devices and use a smartphone at every point during shopping: Seventy-eight percent use them to research products and 75 percent to check prices or availability (compared to 58 percent of other parents). But beyond convenience, customer service for this group is key: “Millennials are very concerned about good customer service and are twice as likely [as other parents] to back out of a purchase for lack of it,” says NRF director of retail and consumer insights Katherine Cullen.
Investing in fine-tuning your customer service to the specific needs of millennial dance moms and dads can pay off long term, too. Once a brand or retailer gains the loyalty of millennial parents, they are much more likely to stick with it than parents of other generations. The survey found that 49 percent remain loyal to a brand despite cheaper options (compared with 30 percent of other parents), and 64 percent will shop at a brand they are loyal to before looking at a competitor. More than half will remain loyal despite more convenient options, compared with about a third of other parents.
It may boost your revenues, survey shows
Consumers will spend more money at a small business if it supports a social cause, reports Cox Business—as long as the cause is positive or environmental. A survey of 1,100 consumers found that 68 percent think small-business owners should openly promote the causes they support. Check in with your staff and community to see what would work best for your store. (More than half of those surveyed would stop supporting a small business if the causes it supported weren’t in line with the consumer’s social and/or environmental views.)
Supporting causes can motivate staff, too: One approach is to offer staff the chance to do pro bono or volunteer work on company time or match their donations. Another is to sponsor a fundraiser or store event for a cause. And some stores sell products that contribute a portion of sales to a particular cause.
What else can your store do to bring on the love? The survey found that diversity and inclusivity factor into consumer support of a small business, too. Seventy-one percent said it is important to them that the small businesses they frequent practice diverse and inclusive hiring.
And when asked what type of technology would enhance their experience as customers at their favorite small businesses, these were the top three choices:
- Free and reliable WiFi (41 percent)
- E-mail or online product recommendations based on past purchases (21 percent)
- Point-of-sale that accepts mobile payments (18 percent)
Photos: Thinkstock (2); by Eric Jones, at At Barre