Beyond Experience – Strategies for Creating Customer Stories

Let me start off by saying that I do not think we are all storytellers. The term “storyteller” gets used way too loosely these days. Honestly, it seems a bit wrong to throw around when there are people in this world who dedicate entire their lives professionally telling stories.

However, that doesn’t mean that we as merchants can’t give our customers stories to tell.

Creating Customer Stories in Retail

I’ve heard it (and read it) from quite a few retail thought-leaders, that the retailer of the future will trade on experiences with entertainment being what draws customers in.

While I agree that providing a stand-out experience rooted in entertainment is a strategy, it’s just one strategy. We can’t lose sight of the real goal, and that’s to give a customer a story to tell and I think the stories we want our customers to tell are about our products. You do that, and you can sell product all day long.

If your customers are sharing stories with their personal networks, you’ve won.

Getting to that point means you need to provide a stand out experience. No argument there. But it also means you need a great product. It means consistency across channels. It means a lot of things really. You can’t be the Donald Trump of retail with all entertainment and no meat.

Great Experience + Great Product = Loyalty
 

That’s the formula.

** I know loyalty can be a super complicated topic, but at it’s most basic this is what it’s all about.

Loyalty for Bricks and Mortar Retailers

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Let’s pick on the physical store for a moment, since that’s still the source of about ~90% of all retail spending globally.

A great physical store experience for a customer involves a number of things, but most importantly…

The right customer service for the right customer.

Too pushy or too shy, you have to train your store associate staff to strike the right balance between helpful and annoying. I spend a lot of time in stores all over the world and this appears to be a problem limited to markets where working in retail is no longer a career. Yes, there are countries / regions where working in retail still means you can earn a fair wage and live a good life (North America just isn’t one of them).

Product knowledge is sorely lacking in most stores, with the exceptions being found in higher-end (I.e. – Luxury) stores and the odd merchant who truly understands the value of highly trained store associates. It really is incredibly frustrating, as a consumer, to ask a store associate a seemingly basic question about an item and get back a canned, non-specific response that has nothing to do with the question.

Just yesterday I was eavesdropping on a woman asking a store associate at a big department store the difference between a generic brand mop and a branded mop. The response…”They seem to look about the same.”

Yup, that was helpful. That was also a horrible experience for that customer, and for the two people (including me) standing right beside her.

Right now you’re thinking, not in my stores! I’d challenge you to start with your people first when trying to build a great customer experience in store. Our human-to-human interactions are far more memorable than any interaction with product or other gimmicks you may put in store.

 

Creating a Sense of Community with In-Store Events

ecommerce, website design, demac media, customer story, retail, matt bertulli, creating customer stories
Another popular strategy employed by a variety of retailers in a variety of verticals is in-store events. These can be everything from cooking classes to meet the designer to book signings and more.

Why do events work? One word. Community.

We humans (most of us anyway) have a desire to belong. Finding your tribe, your community, is part of living a good life.

If you’re the kind of retailer who can help people find people with common interests, you are helping them build not just experiences but friendships. That can create the kind of customer loyalty the vast majority of retailers are lacking in their businesses.

Every time these people go back to their regular lives after your event, they have stories to share. They talk about the people they’ve met. The thing they learned. The story of the designer you facilitated a Q&A with. Those stories may not all explicitly name-drop your store or brand, but some of them will. That will help bring more people to you.

Live Events Made for Unique Customer Experience

Beyond bringing people to your stores, there’s huge value in working with live events and creating unique experiences around those events. For example, there’s an entire category of product that was born out of music festivals.

And I’m not just talking about sponsoring events, that’s old-school and really difficult to make work if you don’t get extremely creative.

Think about organizing some of these events yourself. Perhaps you sell outdoor gear, why not organize some kind of race?

Pick any decent sized city and you’ll find tons of events like this. There’s a really good reason for it. They work!

Pop-Up Stores & Markets

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I’m of the belief that physical stores are for-profit marketing engines powering omni-channel commerce businesses. They let you acquire and service customers for a profit. In other words, retail stores might be your most profitable acquisition channel.

There’s just one problem with physical stores. You can only be in so many places. That is of course unless you are one of those 3,000+ store merchants who can actually put a store anywhere.

For the rest of us mere mortals, pop-ups can be the solution to the physical store problem. Pop-Ups let us get out in the world with our products and show new markets what we have to offer them.

Pop-Ups can also be profitable customer acquisition channels! (No, really, they can).

Give Your Customers Great Stories to Tell!

There’s so many tactics you can employ that get your products in front of your customers in an entertaining, experience-first manner that will give them the story to tell their friends. My only ask is that the experience doesn’t take priority over the product.