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Shoppers are craving the in-store experience more than ever. In fact, 71% of consumers are shopping in physical stores as often — or more — than they did two years ago, and retailers are picking up on this trend. Offerings such as in-store discounts are a sure way to get them there, but it may take more to keep them there.
According to our 2023 Future of Retail report, 94% of retailers plan to enhance their in-store experience. Turning commerce into more of an event is a great way to give customers something new and challenge expectations. Updating and experimenting with how your store functions, for instance, can be an easy way to spice up your in-store experience.
There are a number of ways to do this to ensure your store stands out and your customers come back for more.
Rethink your layout.
Store layout matters. Ulta recently announced that they were shifting their store layout from being organized by price point to a more “dynamic storytelling” experience. One of the ways they plan to do this is to “unify the presentation of skincare and makeup.” This is an impactful change for shoppers who wear makeup because skincare is often just as important as the shade of foundation they buy.
Think about your shopping journey. For retail stores that sell clothes, shoes, and accessories, consider the ways you can mimic how your shoppers think. Test out if organizing your store as a gradual build from accessories to shoes helps your customers make better purchasing decisions or if having items spread out in a complementary fashion works better.
You can also push your customers to shop a certain way by implementing the IKEA method and placing arrows on the ground to encourage them to shop in a particular order.
Consider special product drops.
Selling special products in-store before they’re available online can also be a great way to bring traffic into your store. This allows customers who want to shop in person to get a first look at new items and purchase them, creating a unique customer experience (because who doesn’t want bragging rights?)
This setup can also be beneficial if you sell items that tend to run out quickly. If an item has been sold out online for weeks, consider making it available in stores before opening it up to your online store. You can even sweeten the deal by adding a limited-edition element to the purchase. Is there a candle that sells like hotcakes every single time? Add a free gift such as a limited-edition branded candle lighter to make it worthwhile. This way you’re anticipating customer needs and giving them something extra.
Building partnerships with other shops in the neighborhood can have multiple benefits. Not only can it serve as a silent way to market your items to a different audience, but it can also add a unique layer to the shopping experience. For example, Claire’s accessories recently opened a shop inside Macy’s. This is perfect for parents who want to shop for themselves and also want their children to shop and browse through items they prefer, all in one stop.
Test out this theory on a smaller scale and talk to local businesses you’re interested in or think can build a mutually beneficial partnership. If you own a clothing store and the makeup shop around the corner just launched a lipstick collection that would go perfectly with pieces on your floor, reach out to the shop and see if there could be an opportunity for both businesses to work together.
Imagine a customer comes in and is looking for the perfect outfit to wear for a celebratory night. They find just the right outfit in your store but now they need to complete the look. Trying to match lipstick shades online to that shirt in their hand proves too difficult until they stumble across a great shade from your partner store. They’re so impressed with how easy their shopping experience turned out, they opt to shop in-store to build a complete look more often.
Expand your product offerings.
If makeup and clothes aren’t the direction you want to take your store, consider offering another way to satiate shoppers: light snacks for purchase (or simply just because). Some nail shops are known for offering a complimentary mimosa as guests get their manicures and pedicures.
Similarly, off-price retailers such as Marshall’s are no stranger to selling water, soda, candy, and chips at their stores. For shoppers who want water and may be in closer proximity to Marshall’s than a gas station, for instance, this could prove beneficial. To maximize this opportunity, ensure that the second a person steps foot into your store they see the hottest, newest items your store has to offer to persuade them to come out with more than just a bottle of water.
Similarly, nail shops can choose to offer the first mimosa free and the second one for purchase. However, if you’re looking for other ways to expand what your store has to offer, consider options like in-store events. The Square 2023 Future of Retail report found that 36% of retailers plan to add or continue using options such as DIY classes, tastings, and holiday events to enhance the in-store experience over the next 12 months.
The Square Retail POS system makes it easy to add a variety of items — from wine to classes — to your setup to help you manage all the aspects of your business in one place. With the flexibility to add a range of items just as easy as it is to add core items, it minimizes any interruptions with your staff or your business and ultimately makes expansion seamless. This move toward becoming a multi-hyphenate can position your store as a place where shoppers can fulfill multiple needs, encouraging repeat visits and loyalty.
Make it more convenient.
Long lines are the quickest way to steer customers out of your store. Setting up checkout options away from the main counter can keep your store flowing smoothly and make the checkout process seamless. Square has tools and solutions that can help you process purchases almost anywhere in your store.
For stores that have longer shipping times or are known for notoriously long lines, flexible checkout options can help bring traffic to your store. This lets customers get their items when they want without the inconvenience of a lengthy line. If there’s a popular item you’re expecting in-store shoppers to gravitate to, consider setting up a nearby checkout stand to expedite the experience. You can even encourage upselling by having other must-have items nearby to encourage customers to buy more.
Flexible payment options like buy now, pay later (BNPL) and QR code payments can also make the in-store shopping experience more convenient. To better compete in today’s marketplace, 34% and 28% of retailers agree that providing options like BNPL and a quick hands-off purchase process, respectively, are needed to better compete in today’s retail marketplace. When customers want to engage with your store but may not be able to afford every item in full, BNPL gives them another option that doesn’t break the bank and keeps them interested in your store. QR code payments provide similar comfort to customers who may have left home without their wallet but still want to shop with you.
As always, it’s important to make any changes to your store or business count by letting customers know. Square Marketing can easily help you spread the word with email or text message options to reach customers whenever, however. You can also assess how shoppers feel about any changes to your new store experience with Square Feedback. However you decide to enhance your in-store experience, remember to prioritize the overall customer experience and keep the impact on staff in mind.