Shopper in aisle

Retail Customer Journey - Enhancing the Shopping Experience

Marketing
14 Nov 2023

Ever launched a new product, eagerly awaiting a stampede of customers, only to get a slow trickle instead? Frustrating, isn't it? It's like planning a trip without a map. Well, that's where the retail customer journey steps in—a detailed map of every customer's expedition, from that first glance to unwavering loyalty and advocacy.

Consider this blog your trusty guide, helping you grasp and master the retail customer journey. From the initial spark of awareness to the enduring glow of customer advocacy, we're here to break down the journey into stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
  • Loyalty
  • Advocacy

Think of it as your go-to manual, not just to understand but to confidently navigate the retail customer journey. So, buckle up because, in the retail realm, each customer's journey is a narrative waiting to be penned, and guess what? We've got the pen.

What is a retail customer journey?

The retail customer journey is essentially a roadmap, illustrating the steps customers take from discovering your business to purchasing and beyond. It's not just about the transaction. No, it's a narrative that extends into the post-purchase phase, where businesses have the opportunity to cultivate lasting relationships and turn customers into loyal patrons.

Delving into the retail customer journey is a practical approach for businesses to grasp the customer experience. It's like putting on your customer's shoes and understanding their perspective. By studying this journey, businesses can fine-tune their processes, making them more customer-friendly and ensuring a seamless experience from that initial spark of awareness to post-purchase satisfaction.

Phases of the retail customer journey

Now that we've got our bearings on what the retail customer journey is let's zoom in and explore the journey's distinct phases. Here's the rundown:

Awareness stage (pre-purchase phase)

Let's kick off our journey with the first pitstop—Awareness. This is where it all begins, where potential customers get a whiff of their "problem" or, more accurately, their needs and wants.

Imagine someone scrolling through social media, spotting your product, and suddenly, they're interested. Or a potential customer passing by your store, captivated by what they see. These moments of awakening can also happen when they come across your online ad.

Now, this stage isn't just about what happens in-store. It's a mix of both physical and digital realms. Customers can discover your brand through social media platforms, online reviews, and various touchpoints.

As a business, you're not just trying to catch their attention in-store but also online. You're navigating the challenge of measuring the effectiveness of your strategies, whether it's through visual representation, in-store interactions, or the allure of social media.

Consideration stage (pre-purchase phase)

In this pre-purchase phase, the customer is like a detective, exploring various ways to solve their "problem" or fulfil their needs. It's a bit like shopping online and in physical stores.

They might be eyeing competing retailers or manufacturers of the same product or service, doing their homework to figure out what suits them best. But here's the interesting twist—they're not just limiting themselves to direct competitors. Nope, they're also considering alternate ways to solve their problem, including non-competing retailers and brands.

So, how do they undertake this consideration process? It's a mixed bag. They compare merchandise in the same store or go on a virtual window-shopping spree online. They might ask friends for suggestions or look at social media, reading reviews and soaking in recommendations.

Measuring the consideration stage is a bit like trying to catch a cloud. It's tricky, but businesses often use brand awareness approaches to get a sense of what's happening. It might not capture the whole picture, but it certainly gives  good insightinto the consideration process.

Purchase decision stage (purchase phase)

Now, onto the pivotal moment on the retail customer journey map—the stage where the customer decides to purchase. The customer has explored their options, weighed the pros and cons, and now it's time to crack the code and make a choice that solves their "problem."

This is where the rubber meets the road, and customers consider a range of objective elements. It's the practical stuff—price, availability (is it in stock, on back order, or not available at all?), preferred colour, size, and the like. But here's the twist: they also deeply dive into the subjective realm. It's not just about the numbers; it's about the vibes.

The brand persona, the influence of peer group norms, recommendations from influencers—all come into play. Let's not forget the personal touch, like how the decision aligns with their self-image. The retail customer journey isn't confined to the store shelves; it's an experience that spans far beyond.

Now, as businesses, the ultimate metric of success in this Decision stage is, of course, sales. That's the moment of truth, the point where all the considerations and comparisons culminate in a choice.

Customer loyalty stage (post-purchase phase)

Let's break down loyalty—the stage is all about customer retention and creating a connection that lasts.

Here's the lowdown: When customers are happy with their purchase, and the "problem" they're solving is recurring, they step into the loyalty phase. This is a game-changer for businesses because customer retention is often easier than customer acquisition.

To make this happen, businesses pull out a few tricks:

  • Loyalty cards and programs: Retail loyalty programs are like VIP memberships, offering exclusive perks that make customers feel valued.
  • Outshining competitors: Another key is just being better than the competition, whether it's a superior product or exceptional service. It's about securing that top spot in the customer's experience.

Now, let's talk tools. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the go-to metric, like a report card measuring how satisfied customers are with their retail customer journey stage. It's a valuable insight into their experience and a predictor of loyalty.

Advocacy stage (post-purchase phase)

Closing the curtains on our retail customer journey is the advocacy stage. This is where the customer stays loyal and becomes a vocal supporter, essentially transforming into an unpaid salesperson for the retailer. They love your products or services so much that they can't help but spread the word. And they actively engage in retail customer journey mapping, understanding every step of the process.

Advocacy is a potent force for company growth, especially when amplified through online and social media channels. Imagine customers sharing glowing reviews with friends and family, effectively driving additional sales.

Customers interact not only with your products but also with your brand story, becoming a part of the narrative. It's this interaction that fuels customer satisfaction and, in turn, advocacy. They're on a buyer journey, and their positive experiences become a powerful tool for your brand.

And, you guessed it, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) remains a handy tool to measure retail customer advocacy. It can help you to gauge how likely customers are to recommend your brand to others.

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Creating a retail customer journey

Building a retail customer journey for your business is like creating a roadmap for your customer's experience, helping you pinpoint key moments and build an effective sales funnel. Here's a straightforward guide on how to craft a retail customer journey:

Step 1: Identify your customers

To truly connect with your audience, it's crucial to go beyond surface-level customer insights and understand who your customers are.

You can do this by creating a customer persona. This is where you construct a detailed, nuanced portrait of your ideal customer. Consider demographics such as age, gender, location, and occupation. Dig into psychographics, understanding their values, lifestyles, and preferences. This persona should be a living document, evolving as you gather more insights.

Let's see this in action, shall we? Suppose you own a fashion boutique. You have both a physical store and an online ecommerce store.

Meet Sarah, your ideal customer

Sarah is essentially your primary target audience. Here are some details about her:

  • Demographics: 32-year-old professional residing in urban areas.
  • Psychographics: Values sustainability, seeks convenience, enjoys outdoor activities.
  • Pain points: Frustration with the lack of sustainable fashion options and the desire for convenient, hassle-free shopping experiences.
  • Buying behaviour: Prefers online shopping, influenced by eco-friendly practices.

By embodying Sarah as your primary target audience, you gain a clearer understanding of her needs, desires, and pain points. This depth allows you to tailor your retail customer journey to seamlessly align with Sarah's values, creating a shopping experience that exceeds her expectations. This is the essence of customer-centricity—transforming insights into actionable strategies that resonate with your audience.

TIP: Like Sarah, a lot of customers prefer to shop online. Learn how to boost online sales and how to create an online store in our helpful guides.

Step 2: Enhance the awareness and engagement phases

In the intricate dance of the retail customer journey, the awareness and engagement pre-purchase phases set the stage for whether a customer progresses to the ultimate goal: making a purchase. Elevating these initial interactions requires a strategic approach. Here's how to do it:

Diversify your marketing channels:

  • Why: Customers are scattered across various platforms, and reaching them where they are is crucial. If you only look at one or two marketing channels, you could be missing out on a whole load of customers.
  • Example: If Sarah, your ideal customer, spends considerable time on Instagram and Pinterest, consider visually appealing content and targeted ads on these platforms.

Strategically boost brand awareness:

  • Why: While grabbing attention is vital, making a lasting impression is equally important.
  • Example: Focus on showcasing your brand's unique value proposition. For Sarah, highlight your boutique's commitment to sustainable fashion through engaging content and visually appealing displays.

Utilize customer persona insights:

  • Why: Understand your customers' needs and tailor your approach accordingly.
  • Example: Since Sarah values sustainability, your content and promotions could emphasize eco-friendly fashion lines, creating resonance and capturing her attention.

Craft thoughtful content:

  • Why: Engaging content keeps customers interested and builds a connection.
  • Example: Regularly update your online platform with blog posts, styling tips, or behind-the-scenes glimpses. This not only educates but also reinforces your brand's identity.

Offer irresistible promotions:

  • Why: Providing a compelling reason to take the next step in the journey.
  • Example: Create limited-time promotions, perhaps offering a discount on eco-friendly fashion items. This not only attracts new customers but also keeps existing ones engaged.

By combining these strategies, you don't just create awareness—you foster a connection. The goal is not merely to be noticed but to be remembered and considered when your customers embark on their retail journey.

Step 3: Prioritize honesty and transparency

In the retail industry, honesty and transparency form the bedrock of a trustworthy and enduring relationship with your customers. Here's how you can infuse these values into your brand:

Accurate representation of products and services:

  • Why: Build trust by ensuring that what you promise aligns with what you deliver.
  • Example: Clearly communicate product details, including materials used and manufacturing processes. If a garment is labelled as sustainable, provide information on the sourcing and production practices.

Transparent production processes:

  • Why: Customers increasingly care about the story behind the products they purchase.
  • Example: If your boutique follows ethical and sustainable practices, share this journey with your customers. Feature behind-the-scenes content or create blog posts detailing your commitment to responsible sourcing.

Authentic brand messaging:

  • Why: Authenticity resonates with customers; they can spot insincerity from a mile away.
  • Example: Craft your brand messaging in a way that reflects genuine values. If your boutique supports a cause, share the impact your customers make with their purchases.

Clear policies and terms:

  • Why: Prevent misunderstandings by being explicit about your business policies.
  • Example: Clearly outline return and exchange policies, shipping times, and any other relevant terms. This avoids potential conflicts and ensures a smooth customer experience.

Customer feedback integration:

  • Why: Showcase that you value customer opinions and are committed to improvement.
  • Example: Feature customer testimonials on your website and encourage reviews. Address negative feedback constructively, demonstrating a proactive approach to customer satisfaction.

Responsive communication:

  • Why: Timely and transparent communication builds confidence.
  • Example: If there are delays or issues, communicate openly with customers. Provide updates on order status and be readily available to address any queries or concerns.

By weaving honesty and transparency into your brand's fabric, you gain customer trust and create a positive reputation that can lead to long-lasting relationships.

One system at the core of your business

Whether you run a car wash, a flower shop, a clothing boutique or a grocery store, build it for success with a dedicated POS system.

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Step 4: Identify brand touchpoints

Understanding where and how customers interact with your brand is pivotal in optimizing your retail customer journey. Here's how to identify and leverage these touchpoints effectively:

Promotional emails:

  • Why: Email marketing is a direct channel to engage with your audience.
  • Example: Track open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates for promotional emails. Use enticing subject lines and personalized content to maximize engagement.

Social media platforms:

  • Why: Social media is a dynamic space where customers discover, share, and interact.
  • Example: Regularly assess the performance of your brand on social platforms. Monitor likes, shares, and comments. Tailor content to suit each platform, understanding the unique demographics and behaviours of your audience on each.

Word-of-mouth:

  • Why: Recommendations from friends and family carry significant weight.
  • Example: Encourage satisfied customers to refer friends. Implement a referral program or offer incentives for both the referrer and the new customer. Track referral success and adjust the program as needed.

In-store experience:

  • Why: Physical retail spaces remain crucial touch points.
  • Example: Monitor foot traffic, conduct customer surveys, and gather feedback on in-store experiences. Ensure that the ambience, staff interactions, and overall atmosphere align with your brand image. Utilize Retail POS and inventory control systems to streamline transactions and enhance the in-store experience.

Online reviews:

  • Why: Reviews shape perceptions and influence purchasing decisions.
  • Example: Regularly check and respond to online reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or specialized review sites. Positive reviews can be highlighted on your website or social media. Use a reliable POS system to manage customer feedback and integrate it into your overall strategy.

Customer service interactions:

  • Why: Customer service is a direct interaction with your brand.
  • Example: Track response times, issue resolution rates, and customer satisfaction scores. Use this data to refine your customer service approach and identify areas for improvement.

Events and promotions:

  • Why: Special events create memorable touch points.
  • Example: Evaluate the success of events or promotions through attendance, customer participation, and sales during these periods.

Understanding and optimizing these touchpoints, along with incorporating Retail POS and inventory control systems, do more than just payment processing but allow you to tailor your marketing efforts for maximum impact, ensuring a cohesive and engaging customer journey across various channels.

Tip 5: Stay engaged throughout the process

Ensuring a continuous and meaningful connection with your customers from the initial awareness to the post-purchase stages is key to a successful retail customer journey. Here's how to stay engaged throughout the process:

Establish a customer-centric culture:

  • Why: Prioritize your customers to build a lasting connection.
  • Example: Train your staff to prioritize customer needs. Implement policies that focus on customer satisfaction.

Follow-up post-purchase:

  • Why: Post-purchase interactions reinforce customer loyalty.
  • Example: Send personalized thank-you emails after a purchase. Inquire about their experience and satisfaction. Offer exclusive promotions or loyalty rewards to encourage repeat business.

Personalized promotions:

  • Why: Tailored promotions enhance customer satisfaction and retention.
  • Example: Use data from your Retail POS system to identify customer preferences and buying patterns. Create personalized promotions based on their history, offering discounts or exclusive deals on items they've shown interest in.

Feedback mechanisms:

  • Why: Customer feedback is invaluable for continuous improvement.
  • Example: Implement surveys or feedback forms at various touch points, including post-purchase. Use insights to identify areas of improvement and address customer concerns promptly.

Adapt to changing needs:

  • Why: Customer needs evolve, and your strategies should adapt accordingly.
  • Example: Regularly assess customer preferences and retail industry trends. Based on these insights, adjust your product offerings, marketing strategies, and engagement tactics.

By maintaining a proactive and customer-centric approach throughout the customer journey, you foster loyalty and create advocates who willingly promote your brand.

Your retail adventure awaits!

And there you have it – your ultimate guide to mastering the retail customer journey! From creating detailed customer personas to rocking the online scene with engaging content, this journey is all about understanding your audience.

 Dive into the world of retail customer journey maps, making every touchpoint count. Stay true, stay transparent, and keep the post-purchase party alive. Your customers aren't just buyers. They're advocates. So, embark on this adventure armed with insights, sprinkle a bit of transparency, and let those retail customer journey maps guide you to success. Happy selling!

Enjoyed navigating the retail customer journey with us? Let's further enhance your retail experience by exploring our additional resources. Elevate your game with experiential retail examples at Experiential Retail Examples, and streamline customer convenience with our guide on offering click-and-collect shopping at Click and Collect Shopping.

Ready to revolutionize your retail experience? Contact our team now to explore the power of our cutting-edge retail POS solutions!

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