What does 2018 have in-store?

As we begin another busy year, what better time to pause and consider the 2018 trends for the retail sector. More importantly, how are the 2018 trends likely to impact and inform the in-store customer experience?

Customer service becomes customer experience.

At its most basic level, customer experience has always been a vital element in ‘bricks and mortar’ retail. Traditionally it focused on simple customer service that aimed to keep shoppers happy through polite staff who were happy and willing to help. This has always been the cornerstone of word-of-mouth marketing for retailers. As time has gone by, the basic concept has grown from ‘service’ to ‘experience’ to include a range of in-store innovations to delight customers. Everything from simple product sampling and bespoke point of sale displays through to one-off in-store events have the same goal of building competitive advantage. And it’s no wonder. Aside from driving the all important word-of-mouth, providing an engaging and unique in-store experience offers many advantages worth investing in.

Why invest in the instore experience?

Brand Ambassador involving consumer in the demonstrationFirstly, it provides the opportunity to deliver something tangible in comparison with online – vital for products where the touch, taste, smell and feel of a product are as important as the look. In doing so, it also allows important factors such as company culture to be communicated to customers; helping to differentiate positioning and ensure customer choice is more than price driven (John Lewis and Waitrose are amazing examples of this).

Secondly, it provides a unique opportunity to listen to customers and gather feedback. Online algorithms are great but it’s a one-way street that only truly measures customer behaviour (what they do) rather than customer insight (what they think). Nothing can beat a face-to-face interaction to gather feedback such as why a customer selected product A not B. Finally, a great in-store experience can be influential. Even simple tactics such as product sampling have been proven to drive sales with more than one third of consumers who sample a product going on to purchase on the day (source: Arbitron Product Sampling Study).

2018 trends for instore

As consumers, we’re all aware of the speed, scale and range of changes happening in-store. And when it comes to the customer experience, some of these are creating (and will continue to create) opportunities for brands and retailers to better engage shoppers at the point of purchase. We’ve highlighted our top 3 2018 trends:

1. Merging digital and physical

Merging physical and digital retailAs consumers spend more and more of their time online, we work closely with our clients to find ways to extend the relationship beyond instore to deliver a greater return on their investment. For example, past purchase history can be used to identify consumers likely to be interested in new products and targeted with in-store offers to help drive footfall to the store for launch activity (such as product sampling). Smart technologies such as beacons can also be used to bring activity to consumers’ attention via their mobile phones as they enter the store. In addition, social media platforms are a wonderful opportunity to extend the ‘reach’ of in-store events by offering rewards and incentives for sharing an experience to fans and followers. Features such as branded photo booths for Instagram images to dedicated hashtags on Twitter can make a massive impact on increasing consumer awareness and driving word-of-mouth referrals.

2. Continued rise of the discounters

The success of retailers like Aldi and Lidl show that it is possible to compete on both quality and price. This proves that these are no longer mutually exclusive as a gauge of product superiority. Alongside this, the range of own-label and lesser known brands available through these stores has never been greater. As a result, long held customer perceptions and loyalties are being challenged and overturned as shoppers switch to new brands.

Investing in the in-store experience is perfect to help overcome these challenges by engaging customers on a deeper level about a brand. Field marketing services such as product sampling and brand ambassadors focus on individual consumer needs by demonstrating a product’s suitability for meeting those needs. For retailers, it also gives the opportunity to amplify the differences in-store that can make shopping a more enjoyable experience. Trained brand ambassadors can quickly become experts who consumers turn to for advice and recommendations – helping drive sales and word of mouth referrals. At its most extreme, this concept is leading to some interesting initiatives in the customer experience for retailers. One of these is the rise in “retailtainment” which last year saw John Lewis introduce a pop-up apartment at its Oxford Street store, offering shoppers the ultimate “try before you buy” experience; the very essence of field marketing!

3. Focus on the niche

Finally, there is one area we have seen huge growth over the past 12 months and expect to continue in 2018 trends. The move towards more niche and seasonal products is an important one for brands and retailers. Whether it’s craft beers, locally sourced meats or “free from” ranges such as gluten, dairy or sugar free products – the depth and range of products on the shelves has never been greater. With this comes a whole host of challenges and opportunities for brands and retailers. Such products require more time to be spent with customers in order to educate, advise and encourage. Tactics like in-store cooking events are the perfect chance to showcase niche and seasonal products, helping customers understand their unique features and benefits and inspiring them as to the potential. This all increases the likelihood to purchase. Why not use our 2018 Events Calendar for some inspiration. Download it here.


Top tips for creating successful brand experiences instore

Regardless of the event and activity, we believe there are certain elements that should form the basis of every brand experience:

  • Create an emotional connection. The more successfully you can engage consumers’ passions and interests, the better. Take time to understand their needs (e.g. a healthier lifestyle) in order to position your brand as a part of the solution. 
  • Involve your customer. There’s an old saying by Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Make this your mantra for customer experience to deliver a two-way interaction that drives sales and loyalty.
  • Reward sharing. We’ve already touched upon the opportunities to extend the reach of in-store campaigns by rewarding consumers for sharing their experience beyond the face-to-face. Simple money off rewards and prize incentives are a simple and effective way of encourage shoppers to tell others and spreading your word-of-mouth message.
  • Inspire and educate. Building on point 2 above; the best customer experiences tell consumers something they didn’t know and inspires them to do something new. Use this as a simple barometer for evaluating potential campaigns.
  • Ensure brand ambassadors are experts. It goes without saying but warrants stating; make sure the frontline personnel are knowledgable and personable (something we happen to be pretty good at!) to ensure consumers receive the information and experience they deserve.

Talk to us about how we can create great customer experiences for your brand in 2018.

Email: fizz@fizzexperience.co.uk or call 01306 644630.