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Opportunities for Retail Innovation

Online, offline, or a blend of both, the storefront of a business holds the greatest source of potential value for any organization. As we talked about in our previous post about Gemba, your storefront has a huge impact on your company’s selling power and will directly affect a customer’s purchasing thought processes and decisions.

There is no “one way” to significantly improve a customer’s shopping experience, but in-store innovation of any kind is proving to be the key to success for many organizations.

Errands to Experience

If you want to talk about in-store innovation, look no further than the Apple Store. Apple has completely mapped out a customer’s experience, and has made it so incredibly elusive that most customers do not even realize that they have set foot on a predictable and loosely controlled path.

Before a customer enters, his or her eyes are already drawn to the iridescent and glowing Apple storefront, perusing and taking inventory of the brand’s newest products thanks to the shop’s transparent glass walls. Likely enticed to at least “take a look,” customers will step inside and begin to play around with these sleek, trendy devices. That is when you’ll be approached by a warm Apple “Genius” who will guide you through how the product works, share tips and tricks, and be able to instantly swipe your credit card to purchase a product thanks to the travelling credit/debit machine that is slung around their necks.

But the in-store innovation doesn’t stop there. Apart from having an exceptional store layout that guides customers from one point to the next, Apple has created the Genius Bar. This Genius Bar allows Apple device owners to plug in their device for immediate, hands-on mobile diagnosis and troubleshooting, all the while being surrounded by Apple Geniuses who are ready to step in and help. This effectively mitigates a customer’s risk of purchasing a product while encouraging them to return to the store to check out new products and to hopefully make a purchase.

Whether or not this comes across as a massive marketing ploy does not matter to customers in the least. Apple’s application of innovation and technology provides customers with a smooth, frictionless and fun shopping experience, turning what would otherwise be an errand or a chore into a positive and enjoyable customer experience. The only problem: shopping elsewhere has just got a lot more dull.

Endless Impressions and Possibilities

Shopping may be one of the few activities that command a single focus, something which can work for or against a company. A classic example of successfully commanding this focus is a grocery store selling lemons placing lemon juicers alongside them for cross-selling purposes. But there are new and innovative ways for companies to take advantage of these same marketing principals:

  • Creating apps or easily scannable QR codes that allow companies to share inventory, skip checkout lines, read reviews, and to view comparable items.
  • Using crowdsourcing as a way to gather customer suggestions and preferences.
  • Adding RFID chips to stock to make for easy stock supply tracking.
  • Taking the “try-before-you-buy” approach to a whole new level (i.e. customers are able to take “free naps” in furniture store beds prior to purchase).
  • Displaying the number of product “Likes” from Facebook.

Successful innovations are not just some gimmick. They serve a real purpose and are useful to the consumer. Not only does innovation keep the customer engaged, but they are likely to appreciate their unique retail experience and will be sure to remember you and your brand going forward.

Harness the power of employee ideas.