Do You Offer a ‘Wow’ Shopping Experience?
It’s one thing for a retailer to announce it wants to create a more experiential experience for customers, and quite another to do it.
Talk of creating a compelling retail experience has been around for several years, driven in large part by the competition to brick and mortars by e-commerce. In a day and age in which shoppers can shop quickly and efficiently online, retailers need to offer customers a compelling reason to step foot inside a real building.
The irony is that experiential shopping isn’t new, rather, it harkens back to a golden age. Back in the 1950s and 60s, shopping was an event. Stores provided hair salons and restaurants for “ladies who lunch,” for example. While clientele has changed greatly in the past 60+ years, the lesson to be learned is that shoppers enjoy being catered to. Retailers that build memorable experiences will be rewarded with larger shopping carts and loyal customers.
Case in point: Ulta, a purveyor of beauty products, has found it very profitable to provide customers an entire spectrum of items, some costing pocket change and others the price of a fancy dinner for two. The reason Ulta has become a destination, explained a Wall Street Journal reporter to NPR recently, is that it took the bold step of including such a wide array of products. Typically, manufacturers are loath to share floor space with brands that are elsewhere on the value chain, i.e., luxury and bargain brands don’t mix. But at Ulta, they do. And customers are thrilled.
Ulta management theorized that women who use a $8 mascara might want to come in and buy that product — and perhaps also indulge in something new or “special.” Combining that idea with free services such as mini-makeovers, and they had a winning formula. As a result, revenue rose nearly 24-percent last quarter, and a total of 970 stores are planned by the end of the year.
The strategy not only exemplifies how destination shopping can improve the bottom line, but it also speaks to the importance of promoting complementary purchases. In essence, Ulta counted on customers making at least one “impulse” buy while they were at the store: that mascara could use eyeliner; this foundation might benefit from concealer, etc.
In addition, the personal touch is not forced, rather, it is sought after by the customer. Associates greet each guest, and they offer to apply products and make suggestions — all at the request of the shopper. The customer is enjoying herself, doesn’t feel harassed and feels in control.
And that is a beautiful retail experience.
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