User experience design, or the process of enhancing satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction, is a staple element of the design of mobile apps, websites and digital experiences.
It is less often discussed in terms of physical retail experiences, but lies at the heart of creating differentiating experiences for retail brands. A key challenge for retailers is in gaining full visibility and knowledge of the shoppers’ path to purchase, and then designing brand experiences that work holistically across all physical and digital mediums. Limitations imposed both by traditional operational models and siloed organizational structures often get in the way of delivering the seamless retail brand experiences that today’s shoppers desire.
To successfully create these experiences requires an understanding of the shopper’s mindset and how it changes along the path to purchase, and responding with solutions that intercept them at the right time, at the right place, in the right manner, and with the right message. The focus must also extend beyond how retail stores and digital footprints look and feel, and include the strategies to address the nuances of user experience design.
Digital and especially mobile devices unquestionably play a key role in shoppers’ paths to purchase, from reading about retail category trends, whether in food, home improvement or fashion, to the search and actual purchase.
Disruption from online channels will continue to impact all retail categories, as the channel works well in supporting many types of purchase decisions. Ease of price comparison means that shoppers can be confident that they are getting the best value for their money. And it is much simpler and less time consuming to research products online, compared to visiting a range of physical stores. Also, digital offers the opportunity to continually optimize experience through analyzing digital engagement and progress through content, and testing the impact of changes on desired behaviours in a way that would not be cost-effective for the typical physical retail location. Add to this the fact that biases towards physical locations still exist, and make innovation – such as the incorporation of new channels and experiences in the path to purchase – a challenge. This results in delivering a less than optimal experience from a shopper’s point of view.
Retailers should focus on three key approaches. Firstly, retailers should understand their shoppers across each step in the path to purchase at the most granular level. This includes understanding trip missions, motivations and needs, and the revenue potential for each of these. This multi-lens understanding helps in targeting the most attractive shopper segments and trip typologies.
Secondly, retailers should focus on how they engage shoppers’ emotional needs as well as functional needs. The creation of audible, visual and sensory cues, coupled with the development of benefits-based messaging, will help differentiate the retail experience.
Finally, retailers should consider their crucial role as merchants in delivering ease in the shopping experience, through the use of sales channels and mechanics that make the shopping experience most convenient for shoppers. While one method is the development of a truly omni-channel experience where physical stores are one channel for research, purchase or return, consideration should also be given to other mechanics like curated product subscriptions tailored to the shopper’s interests. This would ultimately show shoppers that you understand them intimately, leading to the achievement of true satisfaction and customer delight!