5 Examples of Great In-Store Customer Experiences

Woman looking at a customer

By Tricia McKinnon and Ben Rudolph

When was the last time you walked out of a store and thought, wow that was an amazing experience?  For me that happens less often than I would like.  Providing an experience that is memorable that leaves your customers wanting to come back for more is challenging.  With the ability to shop online customer expectations for the instore experience are larger than ever.  According to a study by eMarketer, 48% of marketers in the United States believe that they have an excellent ability to provide an exceptional customer experience yet only 22% of consumers share that view.  

How much does a bad customer experience impact your bottom line?  More than you think.  55% of shoppers in the United States surveyed said that even one bad experience would cause them from returning to the brand.  Based on a survey of US shoppers the top five in-store factors that would cause a shopper to shop at a different store are: #1. employees were rude to me (42%), #2 the store was disorganized (17%), #3 prices were higher than expected (15%), #4 employees were not knowledgeable (13%), #5 salespeople tried to sell me on the product (13%).  While tech enabled stores like Amazon Go receive lots of press you can’t go wrong with focusing on the basics like having happy, friendly and knowledgeable sales associates.  Not all customer experiences have to break the bank.   You can hire employees like Trader Joe’s does that are genuine fans of your brand and truly enjoy serving others.   Or once you have great sales associates in place you can consider splurging to offer a more immersive customer experience like Canada Goose has with its cold rooms. 

If you are planning to take the experience you provide your customers with to the next level here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Customers love Trader Joe’s friendly and helpful staff.  One of the keys to Trader Joe’s success is hiring the right people and investing in them.  Jon Basalone, President of Stores at Trader Joe’s has said: “we’ve been around for over 50 years, and we’ve never had layoffs. We stay true to what we know works for Trader Joe’s and our crew members.”  “You combine that with the pay, benefits and supportive, fun environment, and people tend to want to stick around.”  In 2019 Trader Joe’s was named Forbes’ best large employer and Trader Joe’s was ranked as having the highest customer satisfaction rating among supermarkets in the 2018-2019 period by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

2. With more and more people looking for personalized experiences one way to improve the customer experience without breaking the bank is to offer monograming services.  Japanese lifestyle brand MUJI has a service called MUJI YOURSELF which offers in-store personalization of MUJI products. Customers have the option of engraving letters on a broad range of MUJI products including business card holders, storage units, notebooks and pencil cases.  The retailer also offers custom embroidery where customers can choose from over 200 designs and letters.  These designs can be embroidered on the retailer’s fabric products.    Customers can also opt to have a picture of their choice printed onto selected MUJI apparel and home fabric items.  You know what they say, a little can go a long way.

3. Nordstrom is a leader in providing an elevated customer experience. In an attempt to cater to time starved customers, Nordstrom customers can reserve an item of merchandise online that is then ready for them to try-on when they arrive in store. This alleviates the need for customers to search for the item when they arrive in store. This is also a great example of a multi-channel shopping experience where the customer starts online and continues in-store seamlessly, thus reducing churn.  

In 2017 Nordstrom took its reputation for customer service a step further and launched a new store concept called Nordstrom Local.  Nordstrom Local stores are small.  They are only 3,000 sq. ft and they do not carry dedicated inventory. Theses stores are focused on service and providing a great experience.  Some of the services offered at Nordstrom Local stores include personal stylists (free of charge), manicures, pickup for eCommerce orders (including curbside pickup), returns, alterations, gift wrapping and complimentary refreshments. 

4. To provide customers with the experience of what it is like to wear their products in the environments they were created for, Canada Goose began installing cold rooms in some of its stores. These small rooms are set to -25 degrees Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit). The rooms are even equipped with a windchill button.   Customers pick out a coat and then a sales associate accompanies the customer into the cold room to test out the jacket.  Speaking about the cold rooms, Dani Reiss, Canada Goose’s President and CEO said: “we’ve found that the Cold Room is very exciting to customers right now, but we think it will continue to have value long after the novelty factor has worn off.” “It means customers can explore buying a coat in the summer months, when it’s hot outside.” While this is a concept that not every retailer can implement it demonstrates how a little creativity can translate into an in-store experience that is not only memorable but functional as well. This experience is so good that Fast Company named it the best retail experience of the year in 2018.

5. Since 2015, Apple has redesigned stores and updated existing ones with new features. These features include boardrooms for entrepreneurs within the community to host meetings, large screens and stages called “forums” for local artists and movie showings, and the launch of Today at Apple.  Today at Apple provides educational programing to demonstrate how to use Apple products for photography, coding, music mixing, and more.

Apple uses programming like Today at Apple as a way to arouse curiosity, empower creativity, and draw customers in. Investing in your customers outside of simply selling to them creates a better experience and makes your customers more likely to invest in your brand in the long run.


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