How to Adapt Your Retail Space and Meet Customer Expectations

We sat down with Jochen Schmidt, Vice President, Distribution and Real Estate, Swarovski, to discuss how retail brands can adapt their bricks-and-mortar stores to keep up with changing customer habits and to help meet their expectations.

How do you think the purpose of physical retail spaces will evolve as customers’ expectations continue to change over time?

The requirements and purpose of physical retail spaces have changed in the last years due to the rise of online shopping, changing consumer behaviour, values and expectations. Our consumers want to learn more about the product’s unique features and benefits when they visit one of our physical stores. They want to learn more about the inspiration of product designs, sustainability aspects and want to learn more about brand story and history too.

Successful retail spaces will need to ensure their sales associates are able to provide a high level of customer service to provide this level of care to consumers on the shop floor. Retail brands should also offer unique in-store experiences that their consumers can’t access when shopping online via their mobile or desktop devices.

So the purpose of the physical retail space remains the same at the core. It is meant to be “hopefully” a place for a transaction. That space remains one of the most powerful touchpoints and helps to build the relationship between a brand and a customer.

What do today’s consumer’s want from an in-store shopping experience?

Today’s consumers want instant gratification, convenience and experience when they go shopping on the high street or in a mall.

They want to be able to quickly find and purchase a product they can take home that same day. Of course, this service can also be delivered online. However, consumers also want an efficient and easy in-store experience combined with the knowledge that well-trained store associates can provide, which is touching the experience dimension.

In order to achieve this, the retail space needs to be designed with this in mind. Products need to be displayed in a way without appearing too chaotic and cluttered, which can feel overwhelming from a consumer perspective.

Store associates need to be able to quickly locate an item for a customer in-store, or be able to source it for them online from another store location. Going the extra mile to help customers locate and purchase a product that same day, enables this instant gratification today’s consumers are expecting. It will also help to avoid a customer leaving the store feeling disappointed and that they’ve had a wasted journey.

As mentioned before the overall experience of the space, customer experience, the service as well the product presentation is key to make a store visit memorable.

How are consumer’s in-store shopping habits changing?

We see different types of shopping behaviour. Some of our in-store customers want to try on a piece of Swarovski jewellery that they may have already researched on our website. So in our case, an open display, premium presentation, elevated service helps to make a final decision. Some customers are already familiar with our brand and story; are happy to browse on their own and are more willing to interact with in-store digital devices.

Other customers seek for advice on styles or want to explore and try pieces of a new collection. Here more service is needed and a different approach. There are still a large number of consumers who expect to be served on a one-to-one, traditional basis and prefer human interaction shopping with a store associate.

We’re putting a lot of effort into finding the best people to work in our stores to help our consumers make a quick purchase or spend comfort time with a friend a trying on jewellery, post on social media and may buy something or maybe not that day.

Having well trained and knowledgeable staff really makes the difference inside the store. There is no guarantee that a consumer visiting a store will make a purchase. Our store associates can make a difference and are still the deciding factor for our in-store sales.

How do you compare in-store touchpoints with the rest of your brand’s omnichannel strategy

The store is one of the main touchpoints for the consumer in an omnichannel environment. It’s, of course, a very important touchpoint because the majority of our transactions are coming from inside our stores. However, there are also a number of brand touchpoints before a customer enters into a store, from traditional communication to social media.

As a brand, we need to be able to connect these touchpoints to provide a smooth and seamless consumer journey. By doing this, we’ve been able to drive traffic to online and offline, in-store deliver the ultimate, multi-sensory brand experience. This involves all senses and ways of communication, which in-store we have all the opportunity and the attention of the customer. So an in-store experience, if done right, will always have more impact.

What ideas would you suggest to those retailers who are struggling to re-purpose their bricks and mortar stores suffering from low footfall?

Think about their unique selling points and how their consumers view them as a brand and look closely at what their consumers’ needs are. They need to ask themselves, why a consumer would choose to come to their brand over their competitors, then work this into their store concept and customer journey.

There is enormous pressure on retailers today to stay profitable. Some retailers fall into the trap of reducing their store sizes or reduce CAPEX which impact on the atmosphere to save costs and reduces the level of customer experience. This might be a big mistake because then they don’t have enough room to provide fantastic in-store experiences to their customers.

This is a challenge the industry faces and is limiting creativity for new store concepts or retail experiences as money is tight. Those retailers that aren’t able to provide their consumers with an exciting, next-level retail experience will be at risk of disappearing from our high streets altogether. It’s brutal out there and the consumer has set expectations. If you’re unable to meet these then you could be gone in a few years.

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