1/18/2012 4:15 PM ET|
6 ways stores keep you there longer
The longer you are in a store, the more you are likely to spend. Retailers know this, and once you walk through the doors, they work hard to keep you inside.
Retailers now face a greater struggle not just to attract customers to their bricks-and-mortar stores but also to keep them there for longer and increase the chances of making a sale.
The same technology that makes it possible for consumers to shop online while on the go or at home, rather than having to rely solely on traditional stores, also makes it easier for consumers to be more efficient when they do decide to shop in a physical store. Anyone with an Internet connection can effectively pre-shop on one of the many sites that offer price comparisons, display store catalogs and highlight special deals. Armed with a smartphone, shoppers can do all of this while in the store to ensure they are in and out more quickly.
"New technologies have changed the dynamics of the shopping experience for many consumers and given them the tools to maximize their time," said Daniel Butler, the vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. "In some cases, you have consumers who are so well-educated in the store's selection that they actually know more than the person working there might."
It's not only that consumers have more technology on hand for shopping, but also that they have less time to shop in general. As Butler points out, it was more common several decades ago for families to have a single income earner, leaving time for the other adult in the household to run errands and shop during the week.
But with more families having both adults working 9-to-5 jobs, there is less time for either of them to shop. Indeed, some households have seen their free time constrained further in recent years by the recession, as many workers have been forced to shoulder greater workloads and put in longer hours at the office.
From a consumer perspective, it might seem irrelevant whether you're in the store for five minutes or 30, as long as you make a purchase, but from a retailer's perspective, the longer you hang around, the more likely you are to buy additional products that you may have otherwise overlooked had you left the store sooner.
The great challenge for retailers going forward, then, is to find ways to entice savvy shoppers to stay longer without feeling they've wasted their time.
"If you get the customer to stay a few extra moments in the store and spend a little extra money, all while giving them what they wanted, then you've won," said C. Britt Beemer, the chairman of America's Research Group, a marketing firm. "But if the customer leaves feeling they've wasted their time, then the retailer loses."
For that reason, retailers must be especially creative in finding ways to both attract customers and encourage them to stay and spend. MainStreet spoke with several retail experts about steps that stores can take (and in many cases already do take) to entice their customers to stick around.
1. Adding in-store demonstrations and videos
Consumers may come to a store to shop, but as many retailers have found out, they'll stay to learn.
"Years ago, department stores used to have working kitchens where customers could stand around and watch experts prepare dishes. Now, we're seeing more stores do this kind of demonstrating," Beemer said.
Williams-Sonoma frequently hosts cooking classes in stores. Apple advertises free workshops to teach people how to use its products. Music shops such as Guitar Center offer weekly recording lessons.
Smaller retailers can easily apply these same tactics to their businesses, whether it's a hardware shop that has a local vendor come in to talk about new tools and how to use them, or a small beauty supply shop that has a weekly event where a makeup artist comes in to show off store products. Butler argues that business owners can just put a video of a lesson or demonstration on a TV in the store to create a learning environment.
Such visual demonstrations not only have the potential to boost the time a customer spends in the store. According to Butler, they also help "make customers feel a part of a community built around the store's business," a fact that may make them more likely to come back.
2. Engaging customers' 5 senses
Part of the reason many consumers continue to shop in bricks-and-mortar stores rather than solely online is for the opportunity to physically interact with products, which makes it all the more important for stores to appeal to as many of the senses as possible.
"When stores offer a more sensorial experience, consumers are generally just happier being in that environment," said Donna J. Sturgess, the president of Buyology, a research firm that studies marketing psychology.
With that in mind, she recommends a range of options for stores to consider: Add live music or play videos to entertain shoppers, spray light aromas in the stores, offer free samples of foods to entice consumers, and let shoppers touch and interact with the products whenever possible.
As Sturgess notes, there is certainly such a thing as being "overloaded with sensory experiences," something she says one might experience in a candle or soap store where the scent can be so overwhelming it turns customers away. But underwhelming the senses can be almost as detrimental to keeping customers in the store.
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