The first presenter of #LetsGetSmart18 at ICSC RECon was Mike McClure, Chief Solutions Architect and Image Consultant at Ad Art Sign Company, based in San Francisco. Ad Art Sign Company makes electric and digital signs for retail establishments across the country.
Mike also spoke at #LetsGetSmart17 last year, during the ICSC RECon. You can check out his presentation about the genesis of modern retailing and signs here.
Mike led his presentation by noting, “we all know retail is changing, and we need to adapt to that change.” With the rise of e-commerce, it is increasingly important that physical retailers engage their customers and create positive customers experiences so those consumers don’t just shop online.
Mike’s presentation was about what consumers like and dislike about their retail experiences, and how retailers can adapt to these preferences. While Mike noted that there are no universal solutions to these problems, he presented some options that retailers can take into account.
One frequent dislike of consumers is the parking experience. At the beginning of the shopping experience, shoppers are frustrated by finding a parking spot and walking from the car to the store. Then at the end of the time in the store, relocating their car and bringing their purchases back to their car can also frustrate shoppers.
There are various solutions to these parking problems. Some of them are not new, such as valets. However, newer technology has enabled innovative solutions. Parking apps can provide real time information about open parking spaces.
Another frequent complaint consumers have about their retail experience is waiting, according to Mike. Whether its waiting for the help of a sales associate or waiting in line to check out, consumers don’t like it. As Mike noted, “consumers love shopping in stores; it’s the checkout they hate.” In today’s society of technology-enabled instant gratification, consumers have been primed to get what they want immediately, making them less inclined to wait.
The same digital technology that has given consumers instant gratification in other aspects of their life can also do the same for their retail experiences. Self-checkout counters can reduce the time spent in line. Moreover, pay apps, such as Amazon Go and Walmart Pay, can eliminate wait time all together.
Consumers are also often dissatisfied with “annoying environments” that retail stores can create. Stores can be too hot or cold, have bad music, or have nowhere to sit.
The solution for these annoying experiences, Mike said, is to create a retail experience. This often-used catechism of the modern retail means to create a comprehensive experience that differentiates the brand and builds a story for the consumers to become part of.
To illustrate the power of retail experiences, Mike offered a colorful example from his youth. When he was in high school he’d sell crafts that he made to a local headshop. The headshop had black lights illuminating the store and incense burning to give a distinct aroma. This made going into the headshop a salient experience, one Mike still remembers many years later.
Mike advises that businesses should strive to have their stores tell compelling stories. This can take the form of unique branding, visuals on the walls and digital signage. In this way, retail can differentiate itself from online merchants, as the internet is a less apt medium for storytelling.
By having shoppers become invested in the brand’s story, these shoppers will stay loyal to the company. Customer loyalty is very important, as getting new customers can be five to seven times more expensive than keeping a current one. And this lifetime value of a customer is approximately 20 times the value of a single sale. For these reasons, loyalty is if the utmost importance to retailers.
Mike concluded his talk by mentioning that brick and mortar retail will retain its importance in our lives even as the world becomes increasingly digital. We will always long for human connection, and as we spend more and more of our working and personal time on devices, retail stands out as a sector in which we can preserve this face-to-face contact.