Create remarkable retail experiences that motivate shoppers to walk through the door and linger

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s that time of year again. The big day is almost here! No, not Thanksgiving, although that’s coming too and it’s a pretty big deal for those of us who love turkey and all the trimmings. But this time I’m talking about the BIG DAY—Black Friday—that all-out blitz to start the holiday shopping season.

In honor of this monumental event, we have some suggestions for brick-and-mortar retailers who want to capture more customers and keep them loyal and happy. So, retailers, listen up:

Consumers want to walk through your doors, they want to touch the merchandise and most of all, they want to buy. For all the click-bait headlines of the retail apocalypse, shoppers still prefer a personalized experience that only an in-store visit can provide.

While online sales are expected to reach $107.4 billion during the 2017 holiday season, in-store sales are expected to rise, too. The National Retail Federation predicts total November and December sales to hit between $678 billion and $682 billion. If those numbers hold true, that translates into approximately $5 spent in store for every $1 spent online.

With increased competition for each consumer dollar, especially in the age of Amazon Prime, how do you best attract in-store shoppers and convert those browsers to buyers? Take a page from the Apple Store playbook and provide a holistic environment where shopping feels less like a chore and more like an event.

Improve the in-store experience with knowledgeable associate
Recent data confirms a majority of customers prefer in-store shopping, but with caveats. They want the personalized services provided by web-only retailers, but they also want to be dazzled and inspired. Those that decide to leave the house, as opposed to hitting the “Buy It Now” button, seek retail experiences that feel authentic, and they seek the value-added benefit of speaking to knowledgeable associates. However, brands are not meeting expectations. A recent study by Zebra Technologies revealed that 44% of shoppers are not satisfied with the in-store customer experience, which includes returns, exchanges, as well as the level of associate knowledge.

Offer time slots for in-store appointments
There’s a reason the Apple Store is always full without feeling like complete chaos—the line is virtual and employees are armed with knowledge about what a customer needs before they even walk through the door.

Regardless of what you’re selling, ensure that consumer can come into the store on their schedule and still receive an associate’s full attention. Whether you’re a clothing retailer that offers personalized shopping, an electronics provider giving demos and instruction, or a store where kids have an option to build their own toys, offering time-slots for in-store visits ensure that those that need help receive the appropriate attention at the time of their choosing. Appointments also boost sales conversions and enable sales professionals to better personalize every experience. The trust-building moments in-store also make it easier to communicate with the customer after they leave the premises through higher email or newsletter open rates.

Make Stores Millennial Friendly
Shopping is not a one-size-fits-all commodity for millennials. They, along with Generation Z, overwhelmingly prefer making brick-and-mortar purchases,  according to a recent CBRE survey. While the group is mobile savvy, they seek out experiential shopping. And like above, they’ve done their research and expect associates to add knowledge to their already high-level of product understanding.

While it’s harder to quickly address factors such as store design, there are more immediate changes that can be made. Some of those include taking elements from the Apple Store Town Square design and incorporating functional yet fun principles into the shopping experience. A relatively easy addition is to add in-store events to the mix during the holidays and beyond. Longer term solutions, include personalization,  loyalty programs, and in-store deals that make it feel like they’ve struck the deal jackpot.

The most important lesson for brick-and-mortar retailers to understand is they can’t rely solely on data-driven solutions. They also need to embrace the old-fashioned handshake environment and provide consumers with in-person, welcoming experiences.

And remember, Black Friday is just one day (despite what the ads may say), and retailers need to engage with shoppers 365 days a year. It’s never too soon to start.

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