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Go Fast or Go Home: A Lesson in Consumer Engagement

Posted on 12.01.2016

By Dianne Inniss, Customer Experience and Innovation Strategist at ThoughtWorks Retail


We all talk about ‘the retail experience’ likes it's something we can define, implement universally and just wash our hands of that worry forever.

Unfortunately for those that don’t offer a good retail experience, and to the benefit of those who have nailed it, there is so much variety among customer bases, and their expectations of your brand, that no one solution works for every retailer. And it’s really hard to get right.

However, there is a general set of foundational rules that can act as training wheels as you wobble through the early days of your engagement strategy. Specifically, by focusing on the first 60 seconds of a shopper’s relationship with your brand – online or in-store – you’ll soon be tossing out the elbow pads, finding the perfect balance and tearing down the open road. 

Engage with emotion. 

A delightful customer experience is often about the emotional elements of the interaction. It’s not just enough to compete with a smooth transaction. Look for ways to deliver small and unexpected touches that add humor, warm sentiment or unanticipated joy.

Make it personal. 

Whatever is trending in your category and your customers’ minds, tap into that in the first few feet of your story or first clicks online. Make sure the first things people see are immediately relevant - not just seasonally relevant - but culturally, personally and visually. Take visual cues from the places your customers spend most of their entertainment and browsing time, especially Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. 

Think from the outside in. 

Most retailers think they understand their customers, and with good intentions, build processes to serve those customer that are actually built around internal constraints. Seeing with the customer's eyes and starting with their context can provide new insight into how to redefine the customer experience. What challenges do they face in finding their desired product easily? What holds them back from coming to your store or finding your e-commerce shop? If you put yourself in their shoes, the holes in your experience can become glaringly obvious.

Invite with the eyes; inspire with the heart. 

Make your first introductions visually compelling. Standard issue displays often generic enough that they don’t capture your attention. Intriguing, creative and visual merchandising is an invitation. Reinforce their message with an engaging product story that connects with the customer at an emotional level, making lasting connections with your brand in a meaningful way throughout the store experience.

Think interactions, not transactions. 

A truly delightful customer experience is the foundation for an ongoing relationship where the customer and the retailer have a sense of shared value. Think about what it takes to create an ongoing conversation, even if someone is not ready to buy at that precise moment. Continue to keep your shoppers’ needs and desires in mind long after you’ve earned their business. Return customers are easier to win than new ones. 

Let customers define the way they want to be served. 

Do they like being greeted? Or would they prefer a cooler, more hands-off approach? Do they want a Live Chat prompt to pop up immediately on your website, or do they just like knowing its there in the corner? Once you establish systems that help you know how each person prefers their customer service, you can respond in kind. Not sure how they prefer to be served? Then ask them!

Explore the context of the purchase. 

It’s not enough to just understand who’s buying what. Understanding the ‘why’ behind the purchase creates new opportunities to deliver a product or service in more engaging and impactful ways.

Create a sense of community. 

Shopping is often a social activity. Helping customers connect with each other and in ways that build or strengthen relationships can be a powerful way to create a compelling customer experience.

Brands that foster a shared sense of identity create hyper loyal brand ambassadors that reinforce your strengths at the grassroots level.

Those crucial first 60 seconds have to start way before a customer ever sets foot in your store or clicks on your site. Know the experience you want to create and map it out from the first step to the dressing room to checkout. Define it, refine it, act it out, create storyboards and write scripts. Leave time and space to test it and tweak it. And in what will seem like no time at all, you’ll be winning over more shoppers than ever. 

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