Andrea Gray, retail and shows director at British lifestyle brand Joules, explains the key points to consider when creating the right in-store experience.
Though many retailers are reducing their retail estate, I believe stores still have an important role to play in today’s multichannel world. They provide a physical touchpoint with customers and through options like click and collect and in-store returns, can often make the buying process smoother – especially for those less familiar with online shopping.
A strong store strategy will complement other channels, creating a cycle of brand awareness, customer acquisition and loyalty. Moreover, the most successful stores offer a quality customer experience: they have a carefully considered layout and atmosphere, staff with great product knowledge who are able to meet customer needs and, importantly, provide a link with other brand channels to offer a seamless, integrated multichannel customer experience.
At Joules, stores feature heavily in our growth strategy – in fact, we’ve just opened our biggest ever store in Edinburgh, and we plan to open 10 to 12 stores a year for the next couple of years. Each store opening for us is really special. Teams across the business collaborate to ensure that we choose the very best sites, then work to exceed our customers’ expectations by offering the right product and the right journey, every time.
To make sure we get all this right, we spend a lot of our time in stores, listening to customer and team feedback and using that information to constantly evolve and improve. Below are a few bits and pieces that we’ve learned along the way.
Take them on a journey
The very front of the store is where you first grab the customer’s attention, so it’s important to think about how you use this space. However, it’s arguably even more important to keep customers engaged as they explore the store. At Joules, research has told us that our customers love our core product as much as they do our latest ranges. We use this insight to create points of interest throughout the store – these might be different fixture types, mannequin groupings that give outfit inspiration or fixture placement to lead the customers to shop the full range.
We also use directional signage to help our customers find what they need quickly; we want customers to enjoy shopping in-store with us, so it is just as important to make the shop easy to navigate as it is to keep it interesting.
It’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’
The most successful stores will be carefully designed to meet customer needs, but it’s really important to bear in mind that customers’ needs vary depending on where they are. People who live by the coast will have different requirements and expectations to those living in the city – selling buckets and spades in our London stores just wouldn’t make sense. At Joules we’ve approached this by segmenting our estate. Seaside-specific ‘pick me ups’ are sold in our 28 ‘coastal’ stores (at locations including St Ives and Padstow), whilst a travel-focused offer can be found in our ‘travel stores’ at Stansted Airport, St Pancras International and Waterloo stations.
Through segmenting our stores, we can better cater to our markets. In our coastal stores, for example, we have a broad range of product in case the weather turns, one of the children has spilt an ice cream over their shirt or a member of the family has forgotten their wellies.
Similarly, certain ranges are more popular at some stores than others. Our shopfit allows us to move store layout to suit each market, so in some stores a certain range will play a bigger role than others. One example of this is our new Edinburgh store – our biggest yet at 3,000 sqft – where we have worked hard to make sure men have a great shopping experience. The shop fixtures and the colour scheme on the walls are more masculine, and we’ve incorporated seating, for men to relax and enjoy the store. As a result, we’ve got a great space to showcase our autumn/winter menswear product, and the response so far has been really positive.
Make it a connected experience
Stores are about more than just selling; they are an opportunity to raise awareness for your brand in new markets, build brand loyalty and interact with customers. This engagement can and should be utilised across all channels. As a multichannel retailer, our other channels – online, catalogue and wholesale – are always considered within the development of our retail estate.
I think it’s really interesting that whenever we open a new store, we often see a positive response from customers through increased online orders for delivery to nearby postcodes. Additionally, we offer Order in Store and Click and Collect in all our stores and also collect customer data in-store as well, to keep our customers up to date on our offers, events, openings and of course new ranges.
I can’t talk about being connected without talking about tech. A lot of brands are thinking about how they can incorporate the latest technology into their stores, but it isn’t always that simple. At Joules we want our stores to be a reflection of the brand. We are a British brand that started in the countryside and celebrates a love of the outdoors, so a store full of high tech digital displays and gadgets wouldn’t really work. Always think about what’s right for your brand and your customers.
When it comes to creating the right in-store experience, the main thing is to stay true to the customer. If you’re thinking about their needs and wants, you shouldn’t go wrong.