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There’s a danger when one writes about a topic that everyone ‘knows’ yet each experiences in a unique way.  In my case, it’s the influential shopping experience.  Get it right and you can see your stores boom, mess it up and you can doom a brand. The shopping experience is based on all the interactions with the brand and its representatives – from assortments to associates, stores, websites, and call center.  And today the options are limitless as connected consumers shop and share whenever, wherever, and however they wish.  Yet, retailers and consumer product companies consider the shopping experience a cornerstone in building a happy and loyal customer base.

The eminent behavioral economist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics Daniel Kahneman speaks of the riddle of experience versus memory in understanding happiness.  Without too much effort we may extend this to the notion of happy and loyal customers.  Research indicates that there are two types of ‘selves’: an experiencing self and a remembering self.  The former deals with the present, while the remembering self keeps score and acts as storyteller and decision-maker.  So if a story ends with pain at its peak, then this ending dominates the overall experience leaving a bad memory.  Leading Kahneman to conclude “our memory tells us stories, it is what we get to keep from our experiences is a story… we think of our future as anticipated memories” (see his TED talk).

So how might this help a retail or consumer product company deliver on the promise of increased customer loyalty?  I see three key areas:

1.  Each interaction between the brand and the customer is important as each offers a part of the overall shopping experience puzzle.

Each one sets the stage for the next interaction.  A poor interaction will sour the remembering self and a good one will keep the happiness factor alive.  These interactions go beyond the obvious ones in a retail store, on a website, or the store app.  These also include the store layout, signage and visual merchandising, the aroma from the bakery in a grocery store or the cafeteria in a big box retailer, the colors of the uniform, the smiles on the associates, the speed and flow of a website, the ease of use of the app, and so on. 

2.  Value is more than just price or products or technology

Shoppers subjectively determine what that means and incorporate the retailers’ brand promise in consideration.  If I am looking for a good deal, then once I make a purchase I want affirmation that it was the right decision.  If a retailer is pushing a lowest price brand promise, a customer will accept basic customer service but not compromise on price expectations.  As a retailer, if my brand promise includes unusual assortment and unique sourcing, then my customers would not want to see everyone in their neighborhood wearing or using the same item. 

3. The shopping experience journey must end on a high note.

Not only does a retailer have to prove its mettle each and every interaction – as that is the last interaction the customer experiences along their shopping journey, but also the shopping experience journey must end on a high note. That’s what will energize the overall experience in the mind of the shopper. 

Understanding the above is the starting point in shaping a better shopping experience.  Today retailers have to put these in the context of the shifts taking place in their customer base – from the rise of the Millennials to the global consumer adoption of mobile technology and the connecting power of social media. 

They need to ask themselves increasingly relevant questions around connecting, understanding, and analyzing their customers and their new shopping behavior.  How can technology help retailers untether their business and help store associates deliver against the rising expectations of empowered customers? How do retailers begin to build an organization optimized for these new retail realities and be poised to deliver superior financial performance? 

You will find answers to these and other questions at the upcoming SAPPHIRE NOW 2013 and ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.  I’m really excited that this year we will be featuring a new addition to the already superb program – The Forums at SAPPHIRE NOW.  The Retail and Consumer Products Forum represents must see content for retail and consumer products companies where the shopping experience will play center stage.  Our Forum will be held on Thursday May 16th and I am looking forward to delivering that Forum’s keynote with my SAP colleague EJ Kenney and listening to rich perspectives from our SAP customers.  This will be a packed day of practical discussions and expert tables covering the most pressing and strategic issues for retail and consumer product companies.

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To experience this years SAPPHIRE and the Retail and Consumer Products Forum – and of course network with your peers, register today for the best technology conference of the year.

I look forward to continuing the conversation with you in Orlando!

Follow me on Twitter @LoriMitchellKel


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