Retailers searching for customer loyalty can look beyond freebies and reward points and involve shoppers in product and service creation, provide expert advice and show authenticity, according to AMP Capital Shopping Centres’ 2014 Recommended Retail Practice Report (RRP).
The report, titled The Consulting Consumer1, found the majority of respondents (82 per cent) are most likely to shop at stores that involve them in developing new experiences, products or services. Over three quarters of respondents expect shop assistants to be experts and a similar amount want retailers to be genuine and trustworthy.
The research was conducted in an online forum to gather initial insights followed by a survey to validate the findings. Bryan Hynes Managing Director of AMP Capital Shopping Centres said: “We put shoppers in the consulting seat via an online Consumer Consulting Board on which they discussed their shopping preferences with fellow shoppers in real-time. Over 2,000 posts were shared in just two weeks.”
This year’s research identified five key themes and recommendations for retailers: customer co-creation, noted above; consumer connections; consultants not cashiers; sensory store experiences and loyalty.
One third (33 per cent) of respondents stated that retail stores which connect them with like-minded people is an important motivation to return to that retailer. Examples cited were Mitre 10’s DIY Ladies’ Nights, Nike’s Run Clubs, and lululemon’s free in-store yoga and pilates for shoppers.
Mr Hynes said: “It is certainly about more than just price for consumers today and brands are beginning to come up with new and innovative ways to connect like-minded people and forge strong communities and brand advocates.”
Consultants not cashiers
Most shoppers are looking for retailers to be consultants, not just cashiers, providing them with honest and expert guidance in their quest to make the right purchase decision. Over three quarters of respondents (78 per cent) expect shop assistants to be experts in their field and provide them with valuable advice and guidance, and 59 per cent agree that getting personal face-to-face guidance helps give them confidence in their buying decisions.
Mr Hynes said: “With an overwhelming amount of information now available to consumers, expectations on retail staff have shifted. Many Australian shoppers are looking for that personal guidance and service when they visit their retailer and really value genuine, trustworthy and proactive assistance.”
In addition, more than half of shoppers say they are more likely to shop at a store where they experience a human connection (59 per cent). Specifically, nearly half ranked individual service (48 per cent), being recognised (43 per cent) and a personal welcome (41 per cent), as reasons they were more likely to return to a store.
The top five service factors that keep shoppers returning to a retail store are:
a store that feels genuine and trustworthy (79 per cent);
proactive customer service and assistance (70 per cent);
a store that surprises and delights through their service (64 per cent);
a store that is accessible both in store and online (59 per cent); and
unexpected in store samples and gifts (58 per cent).
Sensory store experiences
Nearly two-thirds of respondents want a sensory experience when they head in-store (59 per cent). Touching and interacting with products was most important to shoppers (80 per cent) and just over half of respondents (51 per cent) named creative and inspirational store design an important factor to keep their interest.
Mr Hynes said that AMP Capital Shopping Centres takes a place-led approach to its shopping centres creating unique and authentic destinations, customised to suit the local market and deliver distinct experiences. “We have turned Macquarie Centre into a leading contemporary urban centre, offering diverse experiences to customers with threads of art, green and innovation. An Australian-first 21 metre curved digital screen dominates the ceiling of the new Fresh Food Market, with innovative creative ambient content and sound, and plans for dramatic, bespoke art installations.”
The research found that loyalty cannot be earned through discounts, sales and reward points alone, with honesty, excellent service and passion also highly valued. Respondents cited the following top six ways for brands and retailers to earn their loyalty are:
honesty, regardless of making the sale (83 per cent);
regular discounts and sales (73 per cent);
providing excellent service (67 per cent);
unexpected rewards (54 per cent);
points systems (43 per cent); and
being passionate and authentic (35 per cent).
The 2014 Recommended Retail Practice Report can be downloaded from ampcscresearchhub.com.au. Also available are infographics, customer testimonials, best practice examples and graphs for images.
1Research conducted via an online community, during which over 2,000 posts were received from shoppers in just two weeks. The insights from this community were quantified by 1,010 Australian respondents aged over 18, in September 2014 (conducted by Direction First).