5 Steps To Transform Your Store

Doug Stephens, The Retail Prophet, lays out the SUPER solution for retail survival

“The statistics on annual store closures are grim, and e-commerce is on an unstoppable trajectory. But the brick and mortar retailers who are embracing change and focusing on the five elements of remarkable customer experience are winning the hearts, minds, and brand loyalty of a new generation,” said Retail Prophet Doug Stephens at his High Point Market Keynote presentation.

An internationally recognized consumer futurist, Stephens advises forward-thinking global brands like Disney, BMW, and Microsoft, and is regularly featured in leading business media. His High Point Keynote was presented in partnership with the Home Furnishings Association (HFA), and sponsored by Synchrony Financial.

Advocating a “1 on 1 intelligent journey” for customers, from initial online awareness to memorable onsite experiences, Stephens said, “The store is the stage, the staff is the cast, and the products become props. It goes much further than providing exceptional customer service.” He cited the Museum of Ice Cream, Eataly, and the German outdoors chain Globetrotters as notable retailers that succeed by creating SUPER Experiences.

S = Surprise your audience

The first step—surprise—requires creating experiences that are entirely unexpected, not just because they haven’t happened before, but because they bring an unforeseen extra value. “Surprises could include special classes, workshops, or interactive events,” said Stephens. “Macy’s gave its furniture customers in 45 stores the opportunity to look at their rooms through Virtual Reality. By giving them the opportunity to play with this high-tech toy, Macy’s increased the average order by 60%.”

U = Unique concepts

Presenting customers with a unique experience helps build lifelong relationships and word of mouth referrals. “You can’t copy someone else’s idea and rebrand it. Change the script. Deliver an original concept in your own way,” Stephens said. He gave the example of Sonos, a wireless speaker company that opened its first retail outlet in SoHo in New York City last July. “They created seven 150 square foot listening booths, each decorated by a different designer with comfortable furniture, bookshelves, and cozy knickknacks. Customers felt like they were listening to the high-end speaker system in the comfort of their homes rather than in a store.”

P = Personalized interactions

Personalization is the next element, and Stephens shared two examples of retailers who have mastered it. “Le Bon Marche of Paris offers ‘a set of totally personalized services to turn your time with us into an unforgettable experience’ which includes men’s bespoke and made-to-measure tailoring, private stylists, personal shoppers, a watch repair service, alterations, and interior design and decoration consultancies. Stateside, Restoration Hardware’s Members Program, delivers ‘What you want, when you want, always at a 25% savings on everything RH’ for a $100 annual fee. The perks also include complimentary one-on-one consultations with members of their design team and concierge service for order management.”

E = Engaging all the senses

“This is where brick and mortar retailers have a true advantage over e-commerce,” said Stephens. “It’s been a wildly successful tactic for the Museum of Ice Cream, ‘an experience-first brand, fueled by the power of imagination. From installations that ignite all five senses to products made to inspire, we lead with the honest belief that anything is possible.’ The Museum provides phenomenal backgrounds for selfies, with seasonal offerings like their new “Pinkmas” kicked off in their permanent San Francisco space with the promise, ‘You’ll make new traditions, wishes, and resolutions in a gingerbread house, dance under disco light, and discover festive surprises around every corner.’ With more than 240,000 Instagram followers, a sell-out is guaranteed.

R = Repeatable every time

The most important aspect of the sensational customer experience is that it is repeatable. “There is no room for hit or miss. Just like a Broadway play is the same for every performance, so must your cast (staff) be able to execute their lines, movements, and emotional commitments each day for every individual who is in your audience. For those retailers with several outlets, like the Museum of Ice Cream, the need for consistency is company-wide,” he said. Stephens lauded the Ritz Carlton hotel chain for creating customer experiences that are universally recognized as competitively superior in every location it serves.

Creating SUPER experiences may seem daunting at first, but Stephens thinks a little front-end work can simplify the job. “Start by analyzing every step in your current customer engagement process,” he said. “Determine how you can make each a better experience. Since 80% of all retail buying is influenced by a mobile presence, your website must be compelling and consistently fresh. Develop a lively social media campaign that communicates the unique stories that define your brand while specifically targeting your customers. Have courage and put brilliant ideas first!”

To discover more transformative ideas for retailers, be sure to check the educational offerings at the HFA’s Retailer Resource Center. Spring Market seminars are posted by mid-February, and Fall Market events are up by mid-August.