Retailers routinely ponder or stress over the concept of “customer experience” and how they can improve theirs,but so often wind up confused about what it actually entails. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a newly placed display, a big sale or a tablet in the hand of every store associate. It’s not a new logo, a revamped website or more personalized service, either. Customer experience comes down to what a customer feels when he or she walks through your doors.

Delight, Surprise and Amaze

Every customer should feel they’re having their needs met at a retail store, and the shopping experience should be tailored to anticipate and meet those needs. A store’s sights, sounds and smells should delight and surprise the customer at every turn, creating a positive mental association with a brand. Furthermore, a brand’s “story” should be part of every customer interaction, and aim to differentiate your brand from your competitors’.

The blog RetailProphet likens customer experience to a stage production, where many hands with different functions all come together to bring every written word to life, creating an emotional connection with the “audience” (your customers) as the story unfolds. Each new day when the doors to the store are opened is a brand new performance.

A Customer Experience Roadmap

RetailProphet goes on to detail 5 elements that make up remarkable customer experiences, noting that an extreme minority of retailers ever hit all 5 of them.

  • Engaging: Creating impressions that stick with customers long after they’ve left the store by incorporating all five senses; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
  • Unique: Make customers feel they’ve entered an entirely different world when they’re within your walls, and experiencing something unique to your brand that they can’t get anywhere else.
  • Personalized: Give each customer the impression that the store experience was tailor-made specifically for them. This makes them feel special and valued, whether it’s achieved through a bespoke product or remembering their personal preferences from previous visits.
  • Surprising: Even a small surprise during the shopping experience can leave a lasting impression. Efforts should be made to incorporate interactions or elements that are completely unexpected.
  • Repeatable: Like any true science experiment, efforts made to create a unique customer experience should be repeatable, scalable and able to be implemented across all locations. Although meticulous in planning and execution, these methods should appear spontaneous, and be just flexible enough to allow associates to put their own spin on the delivery.

A good place to start is to deconstruct the needs and desires of your average customer, then reverse engineer the perfect experience with those pieces as a roadmap. Don’t be afraid of experimentation, either. A famous creed in the early days of Facebook product engineering was “work fast and break things,” and retailers could do well by going big and bold, throwing out what doesn’t work and taking special note of what does.