What My Ideal Shopping Experience Would Look Like

Retail store

By Tricia McKinnon

As someone who spends a lot of time in retail both as a consultant and as a customer I started to think about what a retail store would look like if I could have anything I wanted in it.  What I came up with is my Holiday wish list but instead of gifts I am looking for the best shopping experience.  

First on my list is self-service. What if we could do more with our phones while shopping in a store? This would involve using my phone to scan tags on merchandise so that I can get data on the item I am interested in, instantly.  What sizes are in stock and suggested items I should buy are examples of some of the data I would like to have access to. Is this too much to ask for? Well, Alibaba does not think so.  Alibaba believes the shopping experience at its Hema supermarkets in China starts once a customer downloads the Hema mobile app.  While shopping in a Hema store, customers can scan a product’s QR code and receive nutritional information, recipes and even recommendations for complimentary items.  This is the perfect example of a seamless shopping experience.  While shopping in-store all of the information you want is at your fingertips, faster than a Google search.  

Next on the list under self-service is a faster way to find the item that I am looking for while shopping in-store.  My vision involves walking into a store, and using the retailer’s mobile app to find exactly where an item I am looking for is located.  This would be analogous to using Google Maps in-store. I would love to see a blue dot on a map of a store with a blue line directing me to the location of the item.  This would resolve the issue of walking around a store unable to find the product you are looking for or a sales associate who can help you.

This functionality exists and was first provided by Lowe’s who in 2017 launched an app called Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation. It is the first retail application of indoor mapping using augmented reality. The app provides the most efficient route to locate a product in a Lowe’s store. Having this type of functionality in the mall would also be beneficial.  How many times have you stood in front of a physical store locator in a mall, looked up a location and then just stared at the screen trying to figure out which way to walk and then got lost on the way? 

The third item on my list is fitting rooms.  Have you ever stood in a fitting room half-dressed waiting, hoping, that the sales associate would come by and get you another size? What if Amazon’s Alexa was there help? You could speak into an Amazon Echo device and say Alexa can you please get J Brand jeans in black in a size six?  The sales associate on the floor could then be notified and get you the item you want to try on.  As an extension of having a smart speaker in each change room what if it could be used to play music of the customer’s choosing while they try on clothes?  Great music always puts me in the shopping mood.

The fourth item on my list is samples.  What if there were free samples (the kind you eat) in all stores and not just in grocery stores.  Walking into my favourite clothing and being offered a treat would make me want to go in again and stay longer.  While I would be satisfied just with free samples, retailers like Nordstrom have taken that concept to the next level by having beverage bars in its Nordstrom Local stores where customers can have a complementary glass of wine or beer.    

Number five on my list is the ability to buy a purchase in-store and have it delivered to my home. It is so nice when you don’t have to carry your purchases around with you while you continue to shop.  This is a service offered by SEPHORA.  In SEPHORA Studio stores, Sephora customers can order products in-store and receive free standard shipping or reduced next day shipping.  

The final item on my list is called a personal touch.  At the end of a shopping trip especially one where the customer has spent a lot of money, a hand written thank you note, sent to my home would be a great way to foster customer loyalty.  Recently I made a large purchase at one of my favourite clothing stores and was surprised when my previously attentive sales associate was not as attentive after I paid for my items.  Sending an old-fashioned personalized note can convey how appreciative a retailer is of either a new or an existing customer.

These are just a few items on my wish list. What’s on yours?


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Tricia McKinnon