Comment: Learn shopper expectations by sector says Steve Richardson of ShopperTrak

17th July 2017

Retailers need to benchmark shopper expectations by sector, says ShopperTrak director Steve Richardson

Steve Richardson

We are all familiar with the struggles retailers face when looking to keep pace with changing consumer behaviour, and how shoppers directly influence the retail landscape. 

Store layouts, customer service, merchandising and experience are continually considered and adjusted to ensure that brands and retailers are aligned with the demands and expectations of target audiences. And, thanks to advancements in technology, valuable insights informing the business of where tweaks or enhancements need to be made are now available – and, to an extent, essential.

But this is by no means straightforward. What makes it even more challenging is the fact that no two shoppers behave the same way – in fact, the same shopper may behave in a very different manner on each shopping trip. As a result, retailers need to be flexible across channels, layouts and services – something easier said than done.

To add to the challenge, customer expectations not only differ from one another, but can also shift depending on the type of store being visited. Our recent research found consumer expectations differ across retail sectors.

Fashion stores

Merchandising was particularly important to customers visiting fashion stores. Specifically, a ‘good’ experience is determined by attractive product displays, a logical store layout, how easy it is to try items on before buying, and quick checkout times. Touching, feeling and trying on items were particularly important, with a quarter of customers saying they would leave a store if there were insufficient changing rooms available, or an unpleasant atmosphere.

Technology stores

Customers visiting technology stores want an effortless experience with easy-to-find products, a logical store layout and efficient checkouts. One in 10 complained about long waits for customer service queries, something in high demand due to new gadgets, compared to other store categories.  

Technology shoppers also want helpful staff who can advise on products and aid their path to purchase, but over-keen sales staff proved a turn off.

Department stores

Given the variety of items available it may be somewhat unsurprising to find that ease of finding products and attractive displays ranked highly in shoppers’ department store expectations. Interestingly, irrelevant offers were among their biggest bugbears, showing that selling a broad range of items can work against stores, as well as in their favour.

Beauty stores

Customers visiting beauty and healthcare stores said staff assistance is very important to them. This is perhaps due to the fact that many beauty products cannot be returned after purchase, so prior knowledge is particularly essential for this sector. Like department stores, poorly targeted offers proved a frustration, with 1 in 10 shoppers believing promotions they receive are not relevant to them.

Optimising the in-store experience

As the above shows, retailers face unique challenges depending on the products they sell. Therefore, to grow shopper value, retailers need to understand how their target audience wants to engage with the store in order to facilitate better customer experiences.

An effective way to validate store performance is through data insights, enabling store managers and head offices to view holistically how current visitors are interacting with the store. Traffic insight technology in combination with transaction data can benchmark performance against overall visitor volumes, while helping to understand the number of shoppers who enter a store and when. Combined with data that leverages smartphone connectivity these insights can present metrics such as dwell time.

For example, if technology store visitors value quick checkout times, retailers can analyse in-store traffic against sales figures, to determine conversion rates by the hour. Not only that, they can look at abandonment rates and dwell times in certain parts of the store – such as near the checkout – to understand if long waiting times are impacting performance.

In this highly competitive retail market where so many external factors are squeezing margins, stores need clear, holistic insights to base decisions upon so that they can future-proof their offering and ensure that the customer experience is continuingly optimised.

By Steve Richardson is UK & MEA Director of ShopperTrak