New Data Reveals Four Key Pillars for Brick and Mortar Customer Experience Success

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National survey from Square Root reveals what shoppers really want from the in-store experience and how retailers can deliver

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Square Root, creators of CoEFFICIENT®, an enterprise SaaS platform that unlocks the power of data for some of the world’s leading brands, today announced findings from a new, national consumer study that uncovers opportunities to align shopper expectations with retailers’ in-store efforts and strategies.

With direct insight from more than 600 U.S. shoppers, the study was conducted as a follow up to Square Root’s recent study, Customer Experience: The Black Hole for Retailers, which explored the customer experience strategy and programming of more than 300 U.S. retailers. Among the findings, the study revealed that while customer experience is a core priority for 96% of retailers, today, shoppers’ in-store expectations aren’t being met.

Brick & Mortar’s Increasing Influence
Today’s customers expect easy, fast access to more products—and those expectations don’t shift, whether shopping in store or from their homes. In fact, consumers say the ease and speed of online shopping has increased their expectations regarding nearly every facet of the in-store shopping experience, including ease of access to product information and inventory (84%), product selection (78%) and speed of customer service (64%).

With stores carrying much of the weight in shaping both consumer perception and behavior, brick and mortar offers some of today’s biggest untapped opportunities for brands. Among respondents, 61% believe stores most accurately reflect brands, and 69% say the in-store experience directly impacts their perception of the brand. What’s more, for 71% of shoppers, the brick and mortar experience impacts whether they will be a repeat customer. While 62% of today’s shoppers say the in-store experience has significantly declined in the last five years, the study uncovers four key areas of opportunity for retailers looking to win over today’s shoppers.

Pillar 1: Associates
Associates bring a brand to life, and the study uncovered just how much consumers expect from those individuals. Shoppers look to associates to be helpful, friendly and knowledgeable about products both online and off. But 80% say hovering associates negatively impact their experience, citing two touch points as their ideal number of interactions. The good news? The study also revealed a little goes a long way with shoppers, with 67% saying a compliment from an associate can improve their experience.

But while associates play a key role in shaping the in-store experience, Square Root’s retailer study shows many brands are underutilizing their teams. Among the study’s findings, 72% of retailers agree their in-store teams need better tools and training to handle urgent customer needs, and 67% say their teams need better access to information. Additionally, 60% of retailers lack ways of measuring associates’ impact on the customer experience, and nearly 69% say their organization needs better ways to incentivize associates. When brands don't get it right, they risk losing repeat customers, with 75% of shoppers saying they're less likely to shop a brand in the future if their problems aren't solved quickly.

Pillar 2: Merchandise
Today’s consumers are used to scrolling through endless pages of products online and they expect the same product selection when shopping in stores. In fact, 82% of shoppers say they expect stores to offer a selection of products that closely mirrors what they can find online. What’s more, when shopping in stores, consumers don’t want to be limited by the four walls around them, with 87% of shoppers expecting to be able to order unavailable products from another location, and 93% expecting to be able to order unavailable products online while in store.

But for retailers, omnichannel expectations and accommodating the rise of options like ‘order online, pick-up in store’ adds new challenges to an already complex system. Today, 68% of retailers agree inventory challenges have increased, in part due to a lack of visibility, with 45% saying their organization lacks a single view of inventory. Those challenges, retailers say, contribute to additional issues like overstock (67%), inventory planning (62%) and stockouts (59%).

Pillar 3: Store Presentation
Today, shoppers make a judgement about a store, and whether to stay to shop, within the first 30 seconds of walking in the door. Among the list of turn offs: dirty stores (82%), long lines (77%), as well as more subtle factors like high temperatures (59%), bad smells (54%) and loud music (44%). Most importantly, however, 92% of shoppers expect a consistent experience across all store locations, with 74% saying lack of consistency both negatively impacts their perception of the brand and makes them less likely to shop there in the future.

In contrast, only 48% of today’s retailers believe they actually deliver the consistent experience consumers have come to expect across stores, and 62% believe they should improve consistency between their physical locations and online channels.

Pillar 4: Promotions
For 82% of consumers, promotions make them more likely to visit physical stores, and 72% say getting a coupon at checkout makes them more likely to shop with the brand again in the future. What’s more, shoppers’ omnichannel expectations apply to promotions as well, with 70% expecting online promos to be honored in physical stores, and 59% saying when they’re not, they’re less likely to shop with that brand again.

While 92% of retailers agree promotions drive sales, the study revealed for many store teams, more promotions can often mean more problems. In fact, 56% of retailers say promotions are one of the biggest sources of customer frustration in stores. Even more interesting, 60% of retailers say problems with promotions actually jeopardize sales, with 60% agreeing they ultimately contribute to increased returns.

Today’s shoppers have spoken. To win customers, brands can focus on the four key pillars shaping shoppers’ in-store experience: empowering associates, offering exceptional product selection and availability, delivering a consistent store environment and providing seamless promotions. For more information and to download the full report for additional insight, please visit: https://square-root.com/customer-experience-report-2/.

About Square Root:
Square Root unlocks potential for some of the world’s leading brands. Their enterprise software, CoEFFICIENT®, breaks through organizational silos, uncovers stores’ unique needs, and helps achieve business goals to improve customer experiences. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Square Root has an award-winning culture, receiving recognition from both Inc. and Fortune Magazine as one of the best small companies to work for in the U.S. For more information, visit http://www.square-root.com.

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Molly George

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