Great environmental design delights customers and elevates your brand. It optimizes multiple, interconnected paths to purchase and eases pain points for shoppers. The resulting great customer experience inspires loyalty to your stores, and loyal customers become brand advocates.
Sounds great, eh?
It’s also not easy to create, particularly when customer wants and needs during a brick & mortar experience are rapidly evolving and sometimes fickle.
So, how do you cultivate conversion within a great customer experience? By nurturing the Five Key Stages of the Sales Process: attraction, invitation, discovery, engagement and decision/closure.
Attraction: Captivate the senses with conscious & unconscious cues
Attraction doesn’t necessarily begin with a captivating storefront. It could begin with a variety of types of brand communication. A potential customer could become charmed by an off-site brand activation before ever viewing your business. Or by an online ad. Or a social media post.
Cultivating attraction starts with an awareness of all potential branding touchpoints and ensuring they communicate well. That, of course, includes creating a great first impression upon entering your store.
What do customers see as they walk from parking lot to entry? Eye-catching window displays that showcase the latest trends and enticing promotional offers can act as powerful magnets.
"Cultivating attraction starts with an awareness of all potential branding touchpoints and ensuring they communicate well."
The senses? Consider using ambient lighting, engaging music, interactive elements and even inviting aromas to further entice passersby. Seasonal décor touches both needs and curiosity and cultivates a welcoming atmosphere.
Attraction often requires some sort of differentiation compared to your competitors. Like human attraction, it’s about more than looking good. It’s about communicating how a potential relationship will unfold.
Invitation: Enticing, easy paths to purchase
Once inside, customers should encounter attractive and functional engagement through signage, fixtures, furniture, lighting, wayfinding, space planning and color choices.
Customers on specific trip missions? Be prepared to efficiently accommodate them via signage, an associate’s guidance or store-app communication. Customers with long lists but not a lot of time? Ensure your floor plan, displays and store wayfinding make it as easy as possible to confidently go from one product area to the next.
Beyond the decorative and practical, consider offering small gestures like complimentary water, hand sanitizer, product samples or special coupon offers to establish a friendly and hospitable atmosphere.
And, as for customers who seem willing to browse…
Discovery: Ignite curiosity, inspire spontaneous purchases
“Product storytelling” might sound pretentious, but it’s grounded in practicality. It’s about strategic placement, product information, product interaction, complementary product groupings that inspire cross-sells, emphasis on new and upgraded arrivals and digital communication (QR codes, app use, digital kiosks, etc.).
Customers choose to shop inside stores because they like to see and touch — or smell or hear or taste — products. So, implement interactive elements like touchscreens, try-on areas or product demonstrations to allow customers to actively discover the value your products offer.
Just as you should embrace omnichannel elements in-store that customers like, so should you humanize personalization. Empower employees to suggest products based on shoppers’ preferences and needs.
This demonstrates expertise and makes customers feel valued, which then nurtures…
Engagement: Building brand connection
Traditionally, engagement is rooted in the human touch. Still is, for the most part.
Quality engagement happens when customers are met, served and treated the way they want. Exceed those expectations, and you net a brand win.
But today this is about all touchpoints, and that encompasses technology, from digital screens to app use to BOPIS to frictionless checkout. This includes useful, value-added services, such as gift wrapping, product customization and installation and consultation services. Customers who feel they get more from their experiences in your stores will return and will tout your brand experience to their family and friends.
"Traditionally, engagement is rooted in the human touch. Still is, for the most part."
Further, some customers want to interact with associates, asking questions and fielding recommendations. This can establish an engagement that transcends the transactional. Yet other customers prioritize an efficient and contactless find, purchase and exit experience. They might prefer using information on their phones rather than asking for help from an associate.
Design your stores and train your associates to accommodate both types — and all types in between.
Decision/Closure: Frictionless, customer-focused conversion
Just about every customer, even the browsers who aren’t in a hurry, wants an efficient, stress-free checkout. Clear signage, multiple payment options, well-trained cashiers and intuitive self-checkout or mobile payment options make the final step smooth and satisfying.
Customers who use your app or are members of your loyalty program could receive a non-invasive purchase acknowledgement that incentivizes future visits — such as discounts, loyalty points, videos providing product information or support, or notes on early access to new and related products.
The sales process doesn’t end with a purchase. It includes thoughtful and strategic marketing outreach that provides value. It also can offer customers an opportunity to give feedback on both products and their experience in your stores.
The optimized environmental design process doesn’t start with sketches or a handful of data points. It starts with questions. You want to cultivate a deep understanding of your brand’s essence, your spaces, your associates and your customers. It includes an attention to detail and a focus on conscious and unconscious cues, the intellect and emotions as well as all five senses. It ascertains what’s now and leans into an informed conception of what’s next.
Remember, the journey from attraction to purchase is a dance between product, environment and human interaction. By mastering the steps in this dance, retailers can turn their stores into conversion powerhouses, fostering lasting customer relationships and boosting their bottom line.