Laying the groundwork for a technology-driven retail experience
An important point to keep in mind is this: technology-driven experiences should not be added just for the “bells and whistles,” but rather to enhance a consumer’s existing behaviors and improve his/her experience. In order to architect the right experience for your target audience, make sure you answer a few key questions:
What are the goals?
Often we are approached by brands that ask us, “what cool new tech can we add to our store?” and we encourage clients to take a step back and focus on the overarching goals. We ask them, are you looking for a solution that answers a pain point today? Does it help solve a sizing-fit gap? Are you looking to increase dwell times and educate your customer in a more immersive way? What benchmarks do you consider for a positive ROI for your investment?
How does your improved in-store experience support the behavior of your customer?
Start with considering how your existing customers behave today. Are they digital natives, mobile savvy, open to sharing? It’s critical to understand the behaviors today in order to create an experience that will resonate. People are creatures of habit and will gravitate towards well-worn paths.
Consider the example of Instagram. What made it so successful wasn’t that it enabled people to take photos — a behavior people already practiced with their phones — but it made sharing photos with friends and family unbelievably easy. Instagram gave users a seamless way harness their inner creative. Because the platform was so simple, it took advantage of existing behaviors and was instantly intuitive to use.
The same goes for in-store experiences. Today we are seeing a lot of brands gravitate to text messaging application when designing their in-store technology experiences for this very reason. These brands are tapping into existing behaviors to offer frictionless and intuitive experience to their customers.
What are the internal infrastructure needs?
Implementing a new solution or experience takes resources. It’s likely you’ll need a team for execution as well as infrastructural and logistical support. A technology rollout can be a lot like an iceberg — the bulk of the project is “underwater” (not immediately visible) and often comes as a surprise to brands. To save yourself that surprise, there needs to be a clear understanding of a project’s IT needs. Here are a few places you should strive for clarity and alignment before you start:
Crafting the beta experience
Once the preliminary groundwork is in place, it’s time to start creating an event that not only fosters engagement but is also fun and engaging. You’ll also want to ensure you have an efficient way to acquire initial feedback as you launch your new offering. Consumers embrace early access and events that feel exclusive, so position it to take advantage of that idea. Make it loud and clear that participants will not only get into this club, but they will also be incentivized for their time and will be rewarded for engaging and providing feedback.
If the experience you’re creating is new, be prepared to be responsive and proactive by having a dedicated team on-site to educate users and to troubleshoot any hiccups in a real-time way. The user experience really is everything, and ensuring that goes smoothly needs to be a top priority.
Lastly, it’s also critical that there is a clear understanding on what you are looking to learn from consumers. Create a baseline of 4-5 core questions to ask of the consumers that are engaging with your new offering or solution, to help get the maximum benefit from your time and theirs.
The big launch
After a successful beta period has been completed, consumer feedback has been assessed, and a clear internal infrastructure is in place, it’s time for a roll-out plan. From in-store staff training to marketing initiatives to track and generate results, keep these things in mind as you move into the deployment period.
Technology itself is just a tool; the success of its implementation often relies on the human that guides the experience. Invest time in educating staff about why this new technology will enhance the shopper’s experience. Have them test it and role play situations with one another so they become familiar with situations they may encounter. Be sure your team has experimented with the solution so they can easily explain and talk to how it works — and can troubleshoot if needed!
Clear Customer Communication
Consumers today are interested in trying new things, especially if they believe it will enhance or personalize their experience. The action(s) they need to take must be intuitive and easy for them to perform — or they’ll lose interest quickly. If your solution requires too many steps, too much waiting time, or makes them feel like they have to do “homework,” they are likely to just walk away. Make sure the process of engaging is simple and streamlined. Ensuring that the instructions are clear and the action steps are easy to understand will go a long way toward customer adoption.
Tracking results and impact
In addition to the analytics captured by your technology, ask and encourage in-store staffers to provide active feedback on what they observe about customers’ interactions and experiences. You may even consider setting up an on-floor feedback tablet to help make it easy to track and noting feedback in real time. Make staff a part of the larger conversation, and report back to them how the implementation is improving sales performance so they continue to feel like a critical part of overall success.
To sum up
With best user experience at the forefront of every best-in-class retailer, integrating a technology-enhanced experience into your in-store space makes sense. With proper planning, execution, and tracking, both you and your customer will win from the experience. Take the time to be thoughtful about your rollout and your bottom line will thank you.
About the Guest Author: Melissa Gonzalez