Frequent Brainzooming guest blogger Woody Bendle showcases his extensive expertise on retail shopper experience insights and innovation with the first of this two part post on innovating the retail shopper experience through a framework and stronger understanding of shoppers' needs:


Innovating the Retail Shopper Experience - Part 1 by Woody Bendle

woody-bendleA 2009 research study by the Verde Group, Wharton Business School and the Retail Council of Canada titled  “Discovering ‘WOW’ – A study of great retail shopping experiences in North America” states that only 35% of shoppers have had a “wow” shopping experience within the prior six months.  The study’s authors boil retail shopper experience elements down to the following five foundational pillars:

  1. Engagement – being polite, genuinely caring and being interested in helping, acknowledging and listening
  2. Executional Excellence – patiently explaining and advising, checking stock, helping to find products, having product knowledge and providing unexpected product quality
  3. Brand Experience – exciting store design and atmosphere, consistently great product quality, making customers feel they’re special and that they’re always getting a deal
  4. Expediting  -  being sensitive to customers’ time in long check out lines, being proactive in helping speed the shopping process
  5. Problem Recovery - helping resolve and compensate for problems, upgrading quality and ensuring complete satisfaction.

The study’s authors specifically note retailers often under deliver on brand experience.  Meaning, many retail shoppers feel as though they are experiencing a homogenized sea of sameness across retail concepts.

What to do?  -  Innovate your store’s shopping experience!

Innovation opportunities exist for every business type.  People commonly associate innovation with inventing, or creating a totally new (or new and improved) product or product category; but often, the most impactful innovations have nothing to do with a specific product.  If your business is retail, and you don’t actually make the things you sell, you can only innovate something other than the product.  And as the Verde Group / Wharton Business School authors point out, one glaringly overlooked opportunity for innovation in the retail shopper experience is the store or brand experience.

OK, so where to start?  - Understand your shoppers’ needs!

I’ve found retail shopper experience occasions can generally be classified into three need orientations.  I call these occasions the “Three I’s of Shopping.”

  1. Immediate Need – The shopper needs to obtain something reasonably soon; if not right now.
  2. Inspiration Seeking – The shopper is open to the possibility of making a purchase if something inspires, or captivates their imagination.
  3. Information Seeking – The shopper is “in the market” and is contemplating making a purchase, from somewhere, sometime in the near future but their current mission is obtaining information in order to make a better.

Innovating a retail shopper experience requires understanding the shopping need orientation of your customers and dialing up the experience to best serve their needs.  It is also important to keep in mind that shoppers don’t necessarily fall exclusively into only one need orientation. There might be an opportunity to improve the brand experience by catering to secondary or tertiary needs.

As you contemplate innovating the retail shopper experience in your store, it is also important to keep in mind that shoppers’ needs aren’t always purely transactional (meaning, they just want to efficiently purchase something and get out of your store quickly).  Regularly in retail, many needs consumers are seeking to fulfill are emotional.  Shoppers may want to “feel” a certain way when they are shopping at your store.  Or perhaps, shoppers want to be perceived a certain way as a result of shopping at a particular store.

Before you begin coming up with ideas for innovating your retail shopper experience, it is critically important to first understand all of your consumers’ needs and assess how well your shoppers feel their needs are being met in the marketplace and by your store.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at specific, VERY different shopping environments with different shopper orientations – one that’s high inspiration and high information, and another that’s high on immediate need.

Between now and then, think about your own shopping experiences that fit into these categories, and tomorrow we’ll explore the innovation opportunities in each of these brand experience situations. Woody Bendle


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