For many, including myself, shopping has always been somewhat of a chore. It’s a necessary evil to keep my clothes fresh and my technology moderately up-to-date. Simply put, it’s not any fun!
Online shopping has made shopping easier, but it hasn’t really made it fun. Brands need to think differently about how to engage their consumers instead of focusing on sheer traffic numbers. This applies to both mediums—online and in-store. To start thinking more progressively, they need to answer at least one of the following questions:
- Why should consumers come into your store when they can get everything they need online?
- How can you provide a unique experience for in-store shoppers?
- How can you cater to evolving consumer preferences
- How can you create a more personalized experience?
Consumer shopping habits have changed significantly over the past several years and because of that, we buy differently. If we choose different reasons to purchase than before, brands must learn what matters and approach us differently.
There are thousands of brands out there now, so how are brands taking their consumer experience to the next level? Let’s explore.
#1: Experience Now, Enjoy Later
The common sentiment among brands used to be that consumers chose shopping in-store for satisfying the need of instant gratification and they shopped online for convenience or delayed reward. Regardless of Amazon Prime speeding up your shipping, this mostly holds true today.
Despite that fact, brands have started to flip the script on traditional convention and instead are bringing online shopping offline—though not entirely. In this case, you get the best of both worlds—a hybrid of the best online and offline features.
The pioneers for this movement have been Bonobos, a trendy men’s apparel brand whose goal is to provide the best-fitting clothing to their consumers. Contrary to your traditional browse and shop retail environments, Bonobos provides an experience that focuses on the individual consumer and their unique needs.
How does it work, you ask? It’s a simple three-step process:
- Make an appointment at one of the brick and mortar locations
- Have a “style guide” find your ideal fit for clothes
- Place your order in store and wait for it to be shipped to your home
Though it seems counterintuitive at first, the concept is actually quite novel. With this model, you receive a luxury shopping experience without the luxury price tags and you’ll always find what you want in your size. This is how you cater to the individual.
Our personal information is no longer a private matter, so brands should be able to dive deeper into the uniqueness of its customers. It’s what allows companies like Netflix, or even monthly subscription brands like Trunk Club, to find exactly what I’m going to want next. Is that too much to ask—wanting you to know my next move?
#2: Gamify Your Shopping Experience
Want to know how to turn a boring chore into something you’ll actually look forward to doing? Turn it into a game. Brands originally tried to apply “game” attributes for customers through loyalty programs, but that’s not longer enough for today’s savvy and all too distractible consumer.
In order to change the mindset of unmotivated consumers, it can’t just be one brand participating in incentives, but several! With that in mind, we now have apps like Shopkick that incentivize the average shopper to hit the mall or even their local grocery store by rewarding their shopping in-retail activity. Rather than rewarding you for loyalty to a single store, you’re rewarded for the volume of your shopping.
Let me explain. While your significant other is off trying on racks of clothing, you can be racking up your kicks (points) by scanning in new items or simply entering a registered retail location. Best part is, all of those points can be redeemed for gift cards at your favorite stores.
For someone who doesn’t enjoy spending hours roaming the mall, this is the great equalizer. You earn rewards for the shopping you already have to do! If you can’t have fun when you’re saving money, you’re probably just not a fun person.
#3: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
People are naturally curious and while we may have our favorite brand of toothpaste or are firmly a Heinz ketchup fan, we also love trying new things and exploring all of our options. For most, like me, it’s just not financially feasible to try all of the alternatives we seek.
I know I’m not alone in this because there is a completely new and thriving industry catering to people just like me. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s called monthly subscription boxes. Though it sports an unsexy industry name, subscription boxes are the average consumer’s opportunity to step out of their comfort zone with reduced financial risk.
It works just as it sounds. Subscribe, pay a nominal fee, experience new things, and reduce your risk. If you’re looking to try some new clothing styles, Stitch Fix will take good care of you. Simply sign up online and answer a couple questions about yourself and your preferences. Next thing you know, Stitch Fix will send you a box of five articles of clothing that match your preferences. Best thing is, you only pay for what you like—no strings attached.
Due to the industry’s popularity, there are now hundreds of monthly subscription options for nearly any product or genre you’re interested in. Unleash your inner-nerd with Loot Crate to receive monthly gaming or comic-related collectibles. I use Craft Coffee to get a new blend of coffee beans every month. You get to enjoy something new at a low cost while not committing to it long term.
There’s a box for almost anything, no matter how niche it may seem. There are boxes catering to pregnant women, dog lovers, do-it-yourselfers, and even people who love moss (yes, there are thousands of them).
It’s a simple concept, but one that makes every month a new shopping experience for consumers. It’s personalized, it’s enlightening, and it’s just plain fun to get something useful in the mail!
The modern day consumer expects more. That means more options, better customer service, and most of all, a more personalized experience. These expectations may seem outlandish at times to brands, but this is where we are as a consumer.
If you are to succeed in the current consumer environment, you need to connect with the individual. We provide our personal information so that you can help me (the consumer) help you (the brand)! Make it easy for us to shop and make us feel valued.
Most of all, we want to enjoy our experience with your brand. Whether it’s online or offline, we want our experience to make us want to come back. When you go into an Apple store, you always feel taken care of and engaged by all of the gadgets. It’s an experience I’ll come back to time and time again.
Find what you can offer your consumer that separates you from thousands of competitors. I promise you it’s there, you just need to do a little digging.
Those are just a few ways shopping has evolved into an experience, but there are plenty more to explore. If you have any ideas on other ways shopping has evolved, please share them with me!
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