New York City–based think tank and marketing agency PSFK hosted its Designing the New Shopper Experience conference Tuesday morning at the Scandinavia House in midtown Manhattan. Weaving in and out of the day’s agenda—which included a lineup of great speakers mainly from tech start-ups—were 10 tips on how modern marketers can grab the wily new retail landscape by the horns.
The 10 calls to action included good (and even great) ideas already being used by stores and e-commerce sites. Here’s my take on the tips:
1. Create confidence. Educate your consumers on the product whenever and wherever you can. The more consumers know about your product, the more confident they feel in buying it. By way of example, Piers Fawkes, founder of PSFK, talked about Pirch, a new high-end, high-tech hardware store where you can book a “spa experience” to test-drive the store’s many showerheads.
2. Perfect partnerships. Collaborating with like-minded companies will “open yourself up to a new audience,” said Scott Lachut, president of research and strategy for PSFK. When scouting for partners, pick companies that are strong where you’re a little weak.
3. Optimize ownership. This builds on the idea of educating consumers but takes it one step further by turning your clients into experts. It’s all about creating educational initiatives that teach your customers new skills. Think along the lines of hosting jewelry-making workshops.
4. Democratize access. This is a big one these days, as start-ups duke it out to bring amenities of the affluent (grocery delivery, laundry pickup, custom meal preparation) to the masses. Personal shopping apps, for one, give middle American women access to big city stylists online. It’s also about customer service—even online, retailers should be enabling one-on-one contact between customers and staff.
5. Eliminate obstacles. Starbucks’ order-ahead service, where java hounds can preorder a drink and pick it up in less than 60 seconds, is just one example of how friction—the hurdles consumers have to jump through to buy things—is dwindling down to nothing. Do you have a one-click buy button online? Can your clients make an appointment through your mobile site? Things to consider.
6. Promote transparency. Where products come from and how they’re made is of great interest to modern consumers, particularly millennials. Lachut and Fawkes cited Amazon Elements, Amazon’s new highly transparent online shop that lets consumers search the origins of any product.
7. Encourage advocacy. Why not get your company’s true believers to market your products for you? Apple has been doing it for decades now, with chat rooms designed for users to gush about the company’s products. Chevrolet recently introduced a marketing push that included 11 commercial segments featuring people who love their Chevys. Viewers were encouraged to get in touch with the segment subjects to ask questions and banter back and forth. And voila! A community is formed.
8. Cultivate community. This one is obvious but often overlooked. Retailers should be creating ways for consumers to connect with one another. Do you have 10 clients who love Georgian-era jewelry? Set up a separate Instagram filled with beautiful images of product in which clients can chat back and forth—or host an event with a jewelry historian. “So much about retail is transactional,” said Lachut. “Set up a space in the store to push complimentary services and experiences that go beyond product.”
9. Recognize and personalize. This advice is especially useful for online sellers, who have the capability to use algorithms and other digital tools to set up customized dashboards for each shopper. But the point transcends the web—when customers feel like you know them and are tailoring an experience for them, they’re more likely to spend.
10. Deliver delight. Delight has become as much a buzzword in retailing as conversion. But it really sums up what the main goal of all modern retailers should be: Find ways to please and surprise your customers. If you can get them to squeal with delight? Even better.
(Photo courtesy PSFK)