In the digital age, it can be difficult for brick-and-mortar retailers to compete with the convenience of e-commerce. If you run a traditional retail store and want to draw customers in—and keep them coming back—you must focus on creating an incredible in-store experience that entices them to make a purchase in person.
That’s why we asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members to weigh in on the following question:
Q. What is your preferred method for improving in-store experiences? Why do you favor that approach?
1. Combine your online and offline shopping experiences
Instead of treating your online store as a totally different store than your offline one, combine them for a better experience. For instance, use the same color scheme and branding, and if you’re having an online promotion, carry that promotion in-store as well. Combining aspects of your digital store to your in-store experience will make for a more cohesive experience for your customers. —Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
2. Reward your regulars
One way to improve your in-store experience is to reward your regular customers. The customers who are already coming to your physical store are customers you want to keep around, so you should reward them for their loyalty. Provide in-store discounts, host special in-store events, or come up with a loyalty program that will keep customers coming back time and time again. —Blair Williams, MemberPress
3. Improve the lighting
Lighting makes a big difference when it comes to the in-store experience. It can be the difference of someone spending an extra hour in your store browsing comfortably or just getting what they needed and running out the door. Improve your lighting by making it softer and remove the super bright fluorescent lights that have people walking in with blue light blocker glasses. — Jared Atchison, WPForms
4. Hire mystery shoppers
Employing mystery shoppers to provide feedback on the customer experience is my preferred method. This cost-effective tool can help you identify areas in which you excel and areas that need improvement, from the customer’s perspective. You can even provide mystery shoppers with a checklist of specific things to look for and report on. —Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
5. Create an in-store app
One problem customers typically face in big box stores is not knowing where the merchandise is located. Lowe’s solved this problem by developing an app that points the customer to the correct aisle and location. Developing an app that helps customers with their in-store experience could become a differentiator when a customer is choosing one store over another. —Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
6. Treat customers like they are friends
I co-own a chain of retail stores. We’ve found in our business that engaging customers on a personal level helps them feel welcome. We love to chat with our customers about whatever they’re interested in, whether it’s their pets, their school, or their kids. When we get our customers talking about their lives, they love it—and they’re more likely to come back and patronize our business again. —Erica Douglass, 1Up Repairs
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7. Design the store layout and checkout process for efficiency
To the extent you can streamline the shopping process and simplify it to avoid long wait times, you will continue to win new business. I prefer shopping in stores that have open layouts so I can find what I need easily and also check out easily with an automated process. By making sure people can find what they need easily and are able to quickly check out, in-store experiences will improve. —Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
8. Develop an SMS-based bot
Being a power e-commerce consumer, in-store shopping is daunting for me. I would love to have an SMS-based bot, not a mobile app, as I do not want to download any app. The bot would help me find products in stores; give me an easy path to get to shelves, aisles, or store areas; help me find my size if my item is not on display; or provide recommendations if my choice is out of stock. —Shilpi Sharma, Kvantum Inc.
9. Embrace mobile checkout options
Smartphones have changed the way customers shop forever, making speed a huge priority when it comes to in-store experiences. Look at, Amazon Go, which offers a cashierless experience, or Starbucks’ mobile ordering. Most customers know what they want these days, so having options for faster checkout and product discovery will improve overall customer satisfaction. —Charles Koh, Pixery, Inc.
10. Make your space comfortable and inviting
Make your store into a place you’d like to be. Keep it clean and organized, choose good music, allow lots of natural light, if possible, and include seating areas. When customers want to be there, they will be in less of a hurry to leave and will spend more time browsing. If your store is enjoyable, customers will choose you over competitors. —Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
11. Let customers test products
We’ve all been to stores where they demo blenders and then customers buy them. This is called testing, and it is my favorite method of improving the in-store experience. It increases purchasing behavior and it works every time. To form a better opinion about your product, customers should experience it. Figure out how you can present your product in a unique and experiential way to see good results. —Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS