Bricks are back, baby! These award-winning retailers are using their physical storefronts to not only enamour and engage customers but to connect with their customer community in profound and experiential ways.
Global Experience Study
Recently, the Freeman Global Brand Experience Study found that if data is the fuel that powers the marketing mix, then experience and events are what provide a broader and deeper range of insights on customers.
· Nearly nine out of 10 companies use event-marketing data to inform wider marketing strategies and tactical decision-making
· 98% of people are more likely to purchase a product after a live experience
· 29% of companies who run experiential campaigns report a 10-to-1 return on investment
Here are four trends that retailers right here in Australia are using to win over customers, maximise customer insights and engagement, and even take home prestigious retail awards and titles.
Trend 1: Building a Niche Customer Community – Skate Connection
Skate Connection was recently named one of Vend’s RemarkableRetailers. Founded in 2013 by Shelley Hedley and Brett Vowles, the company has eight stores across Australia. What is remarkable about this husband-and-wife dynamic duo is their commitment to their niche customer community.
Shelley and Brett are passionate not only about providing high-quality sporting gear but also about supporting the people of all ages who love it too. “After getting on our feet for the first few years, we decided we wanted to support young people in their skating passions, so we started a team and sponsored a couple of up-and-coming riders. One of our skaters, Haylie, is only 13 and is already one of the top female skateboarders in Australia. I know that her passion is to train for the Olympics one day, and we support that one hundred per cent,” says Shelley.
Shelley and Brett want Australia—kids and parents alike—to fall in love with skating, and to achieve that, they do much more than sell equipment. They have a skatepark in their Newcastle store, where they have lessons and open sessions available so customers can explore and develop their abilities. They currently teach 6–12-year-olds and young teens.
“We want—kids and parents alike—to fall in love with skating, and to achieve that, we do much more than sell equipment.”
I’ve have had a great personal experience with Skate Connection as well.
My son loves scootering, and if you’ve been forced to watch YouTube clips of Ryan Williams and Claudio, then perhaps you can relate to my story.
I bought my 10-year-old son’s scooter at Skate Connection and after he took a nasty spill at the local skate park which left his handlebars crooked, we returned to Skate Connection for some needed advice. A cool-looking young man was in the pro shop that day. He took the time to teach my son how to fix his handlebars should it ever happen again, and after I thanked him profusely, I asked him what we owed for the tune-up. He said, “Don’t worry, this one’s on us. Next time, it will just be ten dollars.”
Skate Connection is an excellent example of a niche retailer that genuinely embraces its customer community and provides not only incredible customer experience but has the knowledgeable staff to bring that vision to life in-store for its customers. It’s brilliant retail at its best.
Trend 2: Experimenting – Supercheap Auto
Experimenting is one of the critical trends lacking in most of our retail landscape today. However, Supercheap Auto stands out above the rest.
With humble beginnings in 1972 by Reg and Hazel Rowe, Supercheap has grown from an automotive accessories mail-order business to a retail powerhouse with over 300 stores in Australia and New Zealand. As a sweetheart brand for our lucky country, it will probably come as no surprise that earlier this year, Supercheap took home the coveted Omnichannel Retailer of the Year Award.
This degree of success didn’t happen by accident.
Supercheap’s dedication to creating extraordinary customer experiences becomes apparent when you walk into their fancy-dancy flagship store in Penrith.
With its fantastic in-store stadium, new point-of-sale technology and large footprint, the Penrith store is a dramatic departure from other Supercheap locations.
From its conception to launch, its purpose was “to create a true experiential store, where cutting edge digital is integrated with theatre and customer engagement,” says Glenn MacGregor, General Manager of Customer Experience. From the start, the store was structured to behave differently from the rest of Supercheap’s stores, allowing for after-hours events and localised car experiences. Since its launch two years ago, the Penrith store continues to outpace Supercheap’s other brick-and-mortar locations.
“to create a true experiential store, where cutting edge digital is integrated with theatre and customer engagement”
Engaging regularly (at least once a month) with Supercheap’s local customer community, the Penrith store has unique opportunities to garner feedback from customers through active polling on new offerings as well as finding out what the staff think too.
So, rather than rolling out enhancements to all their 300 stores, the Penrith location is a fruitful experimental testing ground for evaluating what Supercheap customers and staff think.
Experimenting is a new, yet critical step to successful retailing today. Recent record-breaking quarters for Supercheap and successful experiential concept sites like Penrith are no mistake.
Retailers who experiment to gain significant insights into customer experience are winning both awards and customers.
Trend 3: In-store Engagement and Learning – Betta Home Living
Betta Home Living crushed Roy Morgan’s Customer Satisfaction Awards in the electrical and furniture category this year, and it also took the top spot in the People’s Choice Awards for Best Bricks & Mortar Shop Experience.
While The Good Guys and Harvey Norman once featured heavily in these categories, Betta has whittled out its own space in customers’ hearts in a relatively short period of time. Betta’s customer satisfaction soared to a whopping 95% this year, a full 15% increase from last year’s rating.
When I spoke with Chief Marketing Officer Adrian Mitchell, he pointed out, “Having independently owned and operated stores allow us to create genuine connections with our customers, not only during the purchase of their new appliance or furniture but right through to delivery and after-sales service. This level of personalised service is not easy to replicate, and we believe it is what sets the Betta brand apart.”
Over the past year, Betta has also begun hosting specialised events for customers at their company-owned stores. They have welcomed micro-influencers and gurus on subjects including everything from the Keto Diet to home and fitness lifestyle topics for over-50s.
Focusing on offering a broader experience than just traditional brick-and-mortar retail has made Betta a more competitive business. Mitchell pointed out that while consumers now conduct a considerable amount of research online, most are inclined to visit the local retailer before purchase. “This propensity to make a trip to the store is what drives us to continue to innovate and offer outstanding customer experiences in-store,” said Mitchell.
“This propensity to make a trip to the store is what drives us to continue to innovate and offer outstanding customer experiences in-store”
Betta’s excellent customer service and in-store educational workshops help forge trust and loyalty through regular engagement and learning for their community. It’s clear to see Betta Home Living has placed a significant emphasis on positive in-store experiences and providing a learning environment for their treasured customers.
**Betta Home Living is a client of Retail Rockstars
Trend 4: Dedicated In-Store Workshop Spaces – Biome
While Biome might not be a household name yet, this innovative eco-business has five locations in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Founded in 2003 by lady boss and eco-store warrior Tracey Bailey, Biome was not only named one of Vend’s Remarkable Retailers in 2019, but one of three “retailers to watch in 2020” by National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb.
Attracting a fiercely loyal customer base, Biome realises that brick-and-mortar stores need to use a different variety of strategies to retain customers today compared to ten years ago.
So, in 2016, they started hosting workshops at their then-new Balmoral store. Soon after, they expanded the concept to their Gold Coast store and launched the Biome Collective, a dedicated workshop space incorporated into the store design.
“Offering a sustainable learning experience was an easy way to enhance not only our customers’ in-store experience, but it was also a way to share our values and vision with our community and move towards a sustainable and healthy future,” said Bailey. When asked if the workshops were marketed to existing customers or were meant to drive new customers, Bailey answered that it is both. “They help engage existing customers, but they also help to bring new customers into our stores as most people who attend a workshop usually come with a friend, partner or family member. The positive introduction to our stores is invaluable for business and brand growth.”
“Offering a sustainable learning experience was an easy way to enhance not only our customers’ in-store experience, but it was also a way to share our values and vision with our community and move towards a sustainable and healthy future.”
Emotional Connections that Inspires & Delights
Innovative experiences make a lasting impression on retail customers because they make an emotional connection that inspires and delights. That may seem like a tall order, but it is something all Australian retailers should be chasing in the highly competitive digital age.
As exemplified by the businesses above, connecting in more meaningful ways and experimenting can yield high customer loyalty wins for retailers big and small.
If your retail stores are doing something unique to wow customers and engage hearts and minds, we’d love to hear and share your success. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not a retailer, no problem, comment below on some of the great experiences you’ve seen or experienced?