While the economy has fully opened up after the end of pandemic restrictions, we are faced with fresh challenges. Soaring inflation, ongoing supply chain disruption and the implications of a war in Europe loom large. Against this worrying backdrop many are looking for positive experiences to help us feel good and distract us from the news.
Indeed, the whole concept of well-being and self care is far more prevalent amongst consumers now given the torrid time we have all faced. It is no doubt with this in mind that Selfridge’s recently grabbed headlines by announcing it would offer customers a series of experiences including sex counselling and therapeutic sessions.
Its ‘Super Self’ initiative is aimed at putting “inner well-being” at the heart of the shopping experience and intended to tempt shoppers back into its store. The immersive experience includes bookable confidence coaching and empowerment sessions, as well as inviting DJs to create “feel-good sounds”.
It’s a well thought through initiative, enabling Selfridges to set the agenda in creative retailing. Positioning itself at the forefront of a retail revival, this service is one of a number to get shoppers ‘back in the habit’ of visiting stores.
After two years of restrictions, city centres have struggled with the upheaval of lockdowns, stay at home workers, minimal tourism and staffing issues. However the figures for January showed Gross domestic product (GDP) bouncing back in January 2022, increasing by 0.8%. The Wholesale and retail trade grew by 2.5% in January 2022 and was the main contributor to January’s growth in services.
Need to recognise changed behaviours
The lockdowns and restrictions have been long and painful, but a survey we recently commissioned on consumer shopping intentions indicated a strong appetite to return and shop in-store. Only 2% said they wouldn’t be returning to the High Street. But it would be naive to just act as though it was still 2020 in returning to the same plan.
It is incumbent on retailers to recognise how consumers have changed their shopping behaviours. Successful retailers have always understood the motivators and triggers for different customer groups and then offered an appropriate, tailored approach. This needs to be recognised and acted upon. It is certainly something Selfridge’s have recognised. We are changed and therefore retail needs to change to remain relevant in this new and uncertain world.
Connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level
Physical retailers need to emphasise the instore user experience to provide that differentiating factor from the online realm. A good customer experience means your customers will spend more and is something that is a key brand differentiator. The positive approach embraced by Selfridges is an opportunity to connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level.
Positivity provides a welcome break and will help with loyalty and sales. Positivity is an important part of the customer experience mix but it’s more than just that. It’s about appealing to the senses. A sensory buzz of a considered purchase and the need to reconnect with the consumer in this category/space that just can’t be provided online.
In our survey the top factor in people making a considered purchase was the ability to see and touch a product, according to 58% of respondents. This tactile ability to interact with a product and try before they buy gives people a reason to head into town.
Stimulate the senses
Retailers should be stimulating the senses and having the right experts instore. Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success in retail. It starts with effective product launches and is something that traditionally relies on. Face-to-face engagement and hands-on time with new products. People who truly understand the product, can answer questions and can close a sale. This is something the online world again can not replicate.
To complement the expert, think about presenting those products in an appealing way. You will want to focus on products that have increased in popularity during the pandemic – those supporting lives now more centred at home. Make them visually appealing with great displays and demos. Ensure you have clearly labelled product details, features and benefits and ensure any promotions are clearly highlighted, ie. what it integrates or works well with.
Brand ambassadors are game changers
The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the game-changer that increases conversion rate and average basket value, achieved either through a higher purchase price or connection sale and, perhaps, an advocate of both brand and retailer. In an environment where inflation is likely to start to bite, people will be more conscious of what they are spending money on and therefore raises the importance of the skill of an expert in helping to guide a sale.
This is much harder to achieve online and never as gratifying for the end-user as a customer journey that enhanced the individual’s perception of the brand.
On a bumpy road to recovery and with challenging ongoing news, we all want to feel good. Brands that recognise our changed needs and create the right experience led by the right expert can succeed.
By Rupert Cook, marketing director, Gekko Field Marketing