The Seven Deadly Retail Sins: identifying – and beating – the top friction points in shopping

By Chris Carter, CEO of retail marketing specialists smp

If you ask customers what they want from their retail journey today, most will ask for ‘frictionless’ commerce – or words to that effect. Whether they’re buying online or in-store, they want shopping to be fast, enjoyable and seamless.

But currently there remain a number of friction points where the experience breaks down. If retailers truly want to compete, there are seven deadly sins that they need to understand and manage:

  1. Bad recommendations – or none at all

When it comes to providing recommendations to help close sales, most physical retailers seem to rely on static point-of-purchase signs or offer nothing at all.

There’s no excuse for poorly merchandised environments where the customer has to extract information like pulling teeth. Retailers need to provide clear and relevant information, ideally with digital recommendation engines built in.

If e-commerce can provide recommendations like ‘other people bought this’ and offer independent reviews, retailers can do the same in physical environments. For example, smart changing rooms that offer accessories to match a particular look.

  1. Ignoring the other senses

Physical retailers need to create experiences that capitalise upon the senses and highlight the unique differentiators between physical and e-commerce environments. You can’t smell or touch products on a website, and you can’t show how that new TV will look in a physical, immersive lounge environment.

This is why we’re seeing a growth in experiential retail – shopping that offers services and sensory experiences that e-commerce simply cannot.

  1. Different online and offline experiences

Retailers should consider shopper journeys as one journey, often taking place across a number of channels. To make them seamless, content needs to be consistent – both the creative and the tone-of-voice.

Store associates are a huge asset here, providing expertise and recommendations to close the sale and for some categories, even setting up the purchase at the buyer’s home.

  1. Bad salespeople

And speaking of associates, it’s important to give salespeople the resources and training for them to diagnose and recommend.

That means effective questioning techniques so they can extract the right information from the customer and offer relevant recommendations. Shoppers want to know which product is right for them.

  1. Queueing

Some might see the utopian view of shopping where you simply walk out with the purchase and your card is billed automatically, but that’s not right for every retailer.

Queueing is annoying and time-consuming, so look at how the purchase and till experience is already changing, e.g. sales associates who can take payment via a tablet anywhere on the shop floor, self-scan or ‘tap to buy’ options.

  1. Messy retail environments and user interfaces

Whether online or in-store, there can be nothing worse than a cluttered, difficult to navigate environment. Hence the move towards clean, uncluttered retail spaces.

Understanding how shoppers shop different categories and the interrelationship between them helps create a natural shopping experience. Retailers can create experiences that underpin key aspects: e.g. a sustainable product range or something experiential that showcases a ‘farm to fork’ approach to groceries. Conversely, frequently purchased replenishment categories should be treated differently.

  1. Replenishment only

On that note, retailers also need to take the chore out of buying routine consumables, particularly household products, by offering subscription and delivery solutions. Automated home delivery options take away the hassle and reduce the burden of heavy shopping bags!

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