It takes a human touch to help physical stores succeed in today’s digital world.
That’s according to a report by Retail Store Tours which, in a partnership with the NRF 2019 Retail’s Big Show, reviewed more than 1,000 stores in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas during the last 12 months and uncovered nine factors that are driving success in retail today.
“In curating hundreds of stores and retail formats in the last year we discovered the winning factors in retail today, including employee training, retail environment, use of technology, business model, store design, customer management, brand story, unique concept, the human touch and change,” said Dan Hodges, founder and CEO, Retail Store Tours, a division of Consumers in Motion Tours, which helps companies innovate and stay ahead of ever-changing consumer expectations.
Here is a summary of the findings:
The Human Touch: Apple Stores hires sales associates based on their kindness and evaluates them based on customer empathy. Microsoft retail hires sales associates who are both entertaining and informative. It is noteworthy that two of the leading technology retailers are focused on the human touch as a business strategy.
Use of Technology: Customer engagement technology that interacts with shoppers in-store is a winning play. Sephora’s Color IQ app allows a shopper to select make-up while looking at themselves with Color IQ instore. Apple’s sales associates use customer management software that increases responsiveness to customers, resulting in satisfaction and more time in the store. Sales associates who are knowledgeable in product and empathetic to customers are the winning in retail stores today.
Employee Training: Apple, Sephora, Tiffany and other leading retailers are constantly training their employees to update their product knowledge and people skills. They use a combination of daily questions and formalized classroom training.
Business Model: Companies focused on personalization and customization are winning in the marketplace. Two examples are Bonobos, which is an in-store showroom where men are helped to select clothes with in-store stylist and Untuckit, which is a business where the shoppers are styled and sized in the store using a number of pre-sized shirts.
Store Design: The Apple store design features a minimalist approach which is a highly engaging environment. The Ray-Ban store is a multi-experience store where you can have your eyes examined and select a custom frame personalized to your taste. The Sonos store uses sound and environment to create an immersive sound experience. Sephora uses the store experience augmented by technology which is integrated into the store design.
Customer Management: All tier one stores have store associates who use the personal touch combined with technical tools to engage and co-create the shopping experience. Aldo uses technology to connect the front-end sales associate tools with the back-end inventory. Aldo utilizes in-store technology where customers can engage directly with the products in the store and curate the styles and inventory themselves.
Brand Story: All winning retail stores have a unique brand DNA story that was born out of a market need or a visionary founder. Tiffany, Sugarfina, Untuckit, B8TA, Warby Parker, All Birds, Amazon are some examples of the many brands that have a unique reason for being.
Unique Value Proposition: The Real Real, B8ta, Everlane, Alo Yoga, Brooklinen, 3×1 and The Apartment are all distinctive offerings with a unique concept and focused purpose. These stores offer unique products and buying experiences not found elsewhere.
Change: Retailers built to capitalize on rapidly changing consumer behaviors and trends are winners. The future belongs to the fast movers and their ability to adapt their business models. Story is an example of a store that changes its entire product offerings many times during the year. Nike’s Flagship store is another example where customers can buy online and pick-up in store in their own, secure locker. This allows the shoppers to grab and go.