There's a retail revolution under way that's being led by companies that know how to create a sense of theater around shoppers' in-store experiences. Four of the top 10 leading brands in America are now retailers, and they've found that even in the midst of an Internet shopping explosion, it can pay to have retail premises and employ people. What separates them from the pack is their ability to orchestrate a "dramatic, theatrical experience for customers," according to a new survey.
Customers are looking for emotional bonds and pleasurable experiences, said the authors of a study conducted by Nunwood, a customer experience consulting firm, which looked at more than 10,000 customer comments on every major brand in the U.S.
Each of the companies in the top 10 understands that the customer experience is about brilliant delivery of the functional benefits along with how they make people feel, the study found. All of them focus on employees, culture and engagement — but they do so in unique ways.
Wegmans and Trader Joe's epitomize the customer experience revolution taking place, the authors said. They have taken service, atmosphere and décor to a whole new level because they knew that the best way to capture their share of wallets was to make grocery shopping fun again.
Trader Joe's adopted a tropical format with a range of products carefully aimed at a particular customer group and employed intriguing store designs that appealed on an emotional level. Wegmans went for range and theater, carrying twice the number of stock items as the average supermarket organized into different cuisine groups.
For both these retailers, though, the quality of experience delivery is a function of the people they employ. Trader Joe's recruits bright people who are passionate about food and lets them loose on customers, the authors said. Wegmans relies on smart, deeply trained employees to create a "theater of food" that results in what company calls "telepathic levels of customer service."
They and other top retailers have found that helping customers experience products or brands in a tangible way can pay off.
"Those retailers who create a compelling sense of theater for their customers are outperforming their sector average by between 8 percent and 12 percent when it comes to customer experience," said David Conway, a Nunwood senior partner. "These are overwhelmingly nimble, privately owned businesses that have remained close to their customers and invested in staff culture. By combining investment in great staff with careful design of theatrical experiences, some American retailers are bucking the trend — outstripping modest sector growth, and creating jobs."