Brands that have superior customer experience bring in almost six times more revenue than their competitors. A customer experience is very important in establishing a good perception of a retailer. Different factors contribute to this customer experience. Namely the design, ambient, social, and trialability factors. Retailers invest heavily in creating this engaging experience for customers. Customer experience does not only take place in the store but is also part of a long journey in which aspects outside the store are also very important. You can think of the retailer’s website, shipping or packaging materials and for example an app. In this blog, I will describe all of these factors that contribute to creating a customer experience.
The Design Factors
Here we can make a distinction between functional design elements and aesthetic elements. Functional design elements are, for example, the layout and comfort inside of a store. The website navigation, organization of an app, and search speed are relevant functional design elements outside of the store. Whereas aesthetic elements are the texture, color, style, accessories, and merchandise presentation in the store. Dated colors, a lack of gold accents, and a grid layout were linked to a discount-image design environment. Outside the store, important aesthetic elements are the colors, logos, graphics, and pictures on the website or app. A limitation of these design factors is that they are limited to a person’s visual field. An implication of functional design elements is creating pasted lines on the floor across the aisles closer together. This creates the illusion of a long aisle, which will slow down the customer’s pace along the aisle.
The Ambient Factors
These are the background conditions that are processed at a subconscious level. In contrast to the design elements, these elements can invoke not only visual senses but also auditory, olfactory (scents) and touch senses. The visual senses are invoked by the lightning and brightness in the store. Individual product colors interact with the brightness in a store. Outside of the store, visual ambient factors are the brightness and contrast used on the website, the font used and zoom features on a website. Online purchase intentions increase among visitors on a high investment website, which features sophisticated fonts, a white background, an enhanced zoom feature, and images on the search bar.
When it comes to the auditory senses, music results in a higher pleasure, behavioral intentions, and overall satisfaction of customers. Music distracts from in-store sounds, which will enhance the customer experience. The sounds played when customers watch a video on the website, is also an important factor.
Also, scents influence the customer experience. An interesting implication of scents is that when customers smell an indulgent food for more than two minutes, they purchase more healthy products. But there is an opposite effect when they smell the same scent for less than thirty seconds. Furthermore, there are more premium purchases and higher overall spending when there are warm ambient scents present in the store.
An implication of the touch sense for getting higher ratings from customers is to let them touch a rough texture while smelling a masculine scent.
The Social Factors
These factors include people, such as other shoppers or the service personnel. The way customers get treated by service personnel is important, but also just the number of service personnel and their appearances are important. A good staff is associated with product quality.
Also, even small interactions with others in the store slow customers down, which increases their time spent in the store, as well as how much they will buy. Deliberately shopping with others increases the emotional effect customers experience from products. This way, the others’ presence adds pleasure and excitement to the shopping experience.
Having too many or too few people present in the store negatively affects the customer experience. The optimal shopping density to create the highest sales is to have a medium level of social density.
There are also interesting implications when it comes to social factors. For example, when a stranger touches a product in the store, people will evaluate the product more negatively and spend less time in a store. However, when an attractive person touches the product, a customer is more likely to purchase it.
Social factors also exist outside the store. Reviews posted on retail blogs, virtual communities with brand ambassadors, or social media groups are important social factors. It is important for retailers to carefully monitor these online communication platforms. One negative review can reach hundreds of people, which can be detrimental to a retailer.
The Trialability Factors
This involves the ability to experience a product before purchasing it. Samples in a store usually encourage immediate purchases and result in more purchases of the product.
When sampling involves two products with which the customers have little experience, they prefer the first one sampled. But when it is the other way around, so customers have experienced using a certain product, they prefer the second one sampled.
Also, adding favorable information affects the customer experience. Adding this information beforehand leads to a better product evaluation. However, if this information appears after the sampling, customers express more negative evaluations.
The above said focuses on experiences inside the store, but sampling is also possible outside the store. Retailers often provide clips, like snippets of music or movie trailers, to allow customers to sample their products. Also, augmented reality can be used to give customers the experience of actually owning the product. When customers already know what it is like to own the product, they will evaluate this product better.
The store environment which leads to a certain customer experience is an important marketing tool and influences customer’s purchase decisions. The design, ambient, social and trialability factors provide cues upon which customers base their quality inferences.
As mentioned in this blog, there are so many elements that affect the customer experience. Things like the number of people present, the layout of a store, the availability of samples, colors used in the store or on a website and the background music played all have an impact on the shopping experience of a customer. So, one way to boost your revenues as a retailer is to create an unique customer experience.