Recreational Retail: Chain Stores Increase Focus on Personalized Shopper Experiences


The rapid evolution of retail is demanding that retail chains evolve their business models to cater to the experiential shopping trend. Retailers are finding a myriad of tactics that marry the online and in-store shopping experience while providing the personal service and unique experience that attracts the modern consumer. Gone are the days when stores discouraged loitering, banned food and drinks, and got irritated with shoppers who came to try on clothes without purchasing those items in-store. Cozy, customer-friendly spaces where shoppers can hang out are replacing the stores of yesteryear.

Stores are Becoming Service-Oriented

The driving force behind this shift and the in-store innovation is the hyper focus on customers and customer experiences. Retailers are paying attention not just to the products, but to the entire shopper journey. In the wake of so many store closings, retailers are looking to up their game to compete with online titans like Amazon.

Wal-Mart Makes Customer Experience a Priority

Retail superstore Wal-Mart hired a new Chief Customer Officer this past summer, whose role focuses on ensuring customers have a seamless shopping experience throughout their journey, both in physical stores and online. This is a new role for the retailer, created to ensure Wal-Mart’s efforts are more customer-centric in this highly competitive market. The conglomerate recently revamped their online shopping experience as well in another move to not only compete with Amazon, but also to really connect with and attract customers.   

Debenhams Steps Up Click and Collect Services

The British multinational retailer Debenhams has undergone many changes recently to improve the shopping journey for their customers. The latest innovative strategy implements a ‘Click, Try & Buy’ service at one of their newer locations in Stevenage, UK. The service will provide customers with options to utilize a personal shopper to enhance their style and ensure satisfaction with their purchases. They also offer the ability to book a changing room, so that click and collect customers can try on their online purchases when they pick them up.

With instant refunds for return items, the retailer is showing an appreciation for the customer’s time, which seems to be boding well with their clients, as the store’s performance has been on par with their top locations. Many shoppers are purchasing additional items at the time of pickup, which has increased sales significantly.


Nordstrom Gets Radical and Gets Rid of Clothing

A clothing store with no clothes? Some may consider this to be completely counterproductive, but that’s exactly what Nordstrom Local is doing. The clothing store is opening up smaller stores sans inventory, so they can focus on improving the shopping experience. As the market moves further into the digital age, Nordstrom decided to test this new omnichannel concept as a way to compete with online retail giants like Amazon. As of now, at least two shops are planned for the Los Angeles area, but the company may decide to expand to the east coast as well, starting with New York.

The idea behind this move is that shoppers will place orders online and have them shipped to Nordstrom Local for pickup. While they collect their online purchases, customers will have an opportunity to enjoy getting their nails done, or sipping a smoothie from a juice bar. What’s more? Nordstrom removes the anxiety of purchasing items online without trying on the correct size first, by offering custom tailoring and fitting rooms so that shoppers can make sure their purchases fit correctly, and if that’s not enough, returns can be handled quickly and efficiently on-site.

With the overwhelming popularity of online shopping, Nordstrom believes that just offering inventory isn’t enough to stay ahead of the competition; shoppers want a unique and immersive experience to motivate them to head to physical stores.

Connecting with Customers

As the retail horizon continues to shift, the store of the future may focus much less on inventory and much more on customer experiences; that is, if they keep inventory in-house at all. People aren’t going to stop buying altogether, but they definitely aren’t buying the way they used to. Companies continue to look for innovative ways to bring in customers to their physical locations, and are willing to spend top dollar to achieve that goal.

When the popular mobile game Pokémon Go first dropped, retailers around the world shelled out big bucks to turn their store into a “Pokéstop” so they could attract gamers to their locations with in-game incentives.

As Generation Z continues to throw their money at beauty products, cosmetics stores have hired professional makeup artists that can make over customers who book appointments, or give recommendations on which products to use.

It’s not just individual retail chains adopting this strategy, either. Mall complexes are adding more diverse businesses, from indoor trampoline parks to luxury day spas. Many are updating their sitting areas to be fashioned after homey living spaces, and adding free Wi-Fi, aiming to make these areas into popular hangout destinations.

Recreational Retail Fueled by Technology

None of these innovations, creative services and enhanced experiences would be possible without the explosion of in-store technology paired with advances in the digital shopping environment. Mobile point of sale devices released store associates from the cash wrap for more face time with customers. Retailers that embraced mobility have experienced up to 10 percent bumps in sales according to a leading retail management system company. Similarly, a click and collect option, also known as buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) in some places, increases physical store sales up to five percent. While shoppers are picking up their online orders, they tend to grab some extra merchandise on their trip to the checkout counter.

There’s no doubt that the retail chains that embark down today’s experiential shopping path will reap the rewards of higher profits and greater market share tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how recreational retail, a strategy that invites consumers to be more active in the shopping journey, will evolve, but for now, we can enjoy getting a massage the next time we are waiting to pick up an online order.   

Paula Da Silva , Senior Vice President of Sales for Asia Pacific and the Americas, CitiXsys


GDPR: Key elements for businesses to consider


GDPR is now fully enforced and applies to all businesses that process sensitive data, regardless of sector. It’s been argued that GDPR could pose a threat to the innovation afforded by correctly utilising big data to make smarter decisions. 


Boost your business’ sales with a strategic visual merchandising plan

The news has been filled with doom and gloom for retail lately, with major retail chains like House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer reporting difficulty. But there's still routes for boosting sales revenue, if you know where to look.

For example, visual merchandising has proven itself to be a major asset when it comes to the selling process. Now more than ever, visual merchandising is particularly important to battle against industry woes.

With this in mind, we have put together this guide to visual merchandising, covering everything from design to launch. A great visual marketing campaign can see your profits rise, which is invaluable in these difficult days in the sector!

What is visual merchandising?

Visual merchandising is essentially the layout of a shop floor. Everything from where the shelves should be to what products need to be on display is covered in the process. The goal is to make the store more exciting, inviting, and somewhere customers want to be! This, ideally, will lead to better profits.

But it's not enough to just put items out where they look nice. There’s a science behind why certain presentations, structures and even colours deliver a better experience than alternative arrangements, and it’s been established that a strong visual display can raise turnover and strengthen your brand; it can even inspire customer loyalty.

Chief executive officer Bob Phibbs of retail consultancy firm The Retail Doctor, advises that: “Visual merchandising is everything a shopper sees at your store that hopefully leads to a remarkable shopping experience. It is the unspoken language retailers use to communicate with their customers.”

To avoid the difficulties that retailers such as Toys R Us and Maplin faced, you need to do everything you can to encourage the potential of visual merchandising in your business.

Of wants and needs

Global retail sales are predicted to reach $27.73 trillion by 2020, so the window for growth between now and then is certainly there. The first step to achieving effective visual merchandising is what products you will use to attract consumers. A tip here is to go for what you think your customer wants — not needs. According to a study by Raj Raghunathan and Szu-Chi Huang, emotional responses are influential in our purchasing choices — which is why you should focus on giving the customer something to desire.

Putting the focus on newer, high-end items in focal visual merchandising displays can help to draw in customers who are seeking a luxury treat, increasing your chances of high-cost conversions. You could also use banners alongside these displays to present promotional offers for luxury items that you want the consumer to take notice of — and buy!

How to group up displays

Achieving a successful grouping of products for a visual marketing strategy can be difficult. A recent report found that exposing your shopper to the maximum number of products is a tactical method when carrying out visual merchandising. However, don’t make your displays look crowded. Utilise different display furniture, such as mannequins, racks and shelves — whichever suits the product you’re merchandising — and bear in mind that focal points boost sales by a reported 229%, so ensure that you effectively direct your consumers when they enter your store.

A wise tactic would also be to use the 'Rule of Three', also known as the 'Rule of Three' for grouping up display items. The Pyramid Principle dictates that you create a triangular display, with the biggest item in the middle and the smallest on the outside — which ensures that your display doesn’t look flat and boring. Instead, it will catch the eye, as the products seem to ‘fall’ down towards the viewer. Equally effective is the Rule of Three. Within this, you create attractive asymmetry that shoppers will find engaging. Apparently, humans see asymmetry as normal — which means they pay less attention. By placing product in groups of three, you can create a noticeable imbalance that forces the eye to take in each product individually, as opposed to the display in its entirety — excellent for effectively advertising each item.

The importance of colour

Stylist and retail merchandiser, Jessica Clarke, advises that: “Things that are easy to look at will be passed over, and things that are too outlandish will be offensive to the eye.” And this goes for colour. Contrasting colours at the opposite side of the colour wheel can help grab attention — think black and white or scarlet and jade — but creating a multi-coloured display of uncoordinated colours may turn people away.

The ’decompression zone’

A decompression zone is another asset to keep in mind. This area of a shop is found just a few feet inside the main entrance and is believed by psychologists to elevate a shopper’s mood, acclimatise them to the store’s surroundings, and get them ready for the shopping experience.

Building an experience is vital — no one wants to shop if they feel down or unfocused. An effective decompression zone will help transport your consumer from the hustle and bustle of outside to a calmer, more focused environment that encourages browsing. Here are decompression zone tips:

  • Minimum of 10-15 feet.
  • Based at shop entry with a full view of store.
  • Created using contrasting furnishings and colours from outside area to signal new atmosphere.
  • Use mannequins, attractive stands and specialised lighting to highlight your newest ranges.

Did you know that 98% of customers turn right when entering a shop? Why not use your decompression zone to create a ‘circulation route’ from the right side that leads around your store for a smoother customer journey? Or, try placing your best products at the right of your decompression zone, if this is the most likely route consumers take.

Use all five sense

Yes, it's visual merchandising so the focus is on appearance, but there's no reason why you can't support it with an experience for the other senses too.  Reportedly, 75% of emotions come from smell and our mood is meant to enhance 40% when we detect pleasant aromas. If you run a fragrance, soap or food retail establishment, are you harnessing the power of smell when it comes to merchandising?

Different scents can conjure different memories or emotions for a customer. If you run a bakery and want to evoke a feeling of warmth, cosiness, and home-cooking, ensure that your customers can distinctly smell your products baking from the kitchen by setting up the area to waft aromas into the main shop. Similarly, if your brand specialises in soaps and toiletries, place these strategically around your shop floor to avoid clashing aromas. For example, put all the citrus products together to evoke a sense of energy and rejuvenation and keep these far away from lavender and camomile scents, which are more relaxing.

Change it up

No matter how stunning your shop display is, it will eventually look stale. A major part of tactical visual merchandising is moving your presentations as new stock comes in. Don’t let customers get bored of visiting you — keep changing things up and you can make it look like you’re constantly replenishing your stock and bringing in new and wonderful items (even if you’re not).

Your brand will look lazy or behind-the-times if you leave up last season’s goods or promotions, no matter how lovely they look. Change your visual merchandising displays every month and retain the perception of innovation.

It is predicted that shopping will evolve into less about purchasing and more about the experience. With visual merchandising, you can ensure that your shop offers something engaging to keep consumers interested — so why not start planning out your shop’s next visual merchandising campaign today?

Author bio: Gary Peeling is the managing director at leading UK print company, Where The Trade Buys, offering a speedy printing service for large and small businesses. The company provides has a range of printed products, such as the entertaining and event-popular selfie frame, banners and much more.

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