If you’ve followed the Retail Personalization Index for any length of time, you know that Ulta and Target are two well-known top performers every year. Naturally, we were interested to hear that the brands are joining forces to bring more potential buyers into the in-store shopping experience through a ‘shop-in-shop’ initiative.
Over the next few years, Target will bring Ulta’s in-store shopping experience inside over 800 of its own locations. The collaboration will give in-store shoppers access to products from more than 50 new beauty brands available in Ulta and add a curated assortment of Ulta fan faves to Target’s own online store.
Shoppers will be able to sample products, talk to experts trained by Ulta, and browse beauty brands at the shop-in-shop. Even better, these purchases are eligible for loyalty points and rewards from both retailers. Combined with Target’s free online shipping and same-day fulfillment capabilities, it’s easy to see how this partnership will deliver impressive results and elevate the in-store shopping experience for every customer who takes advantage.
“This unique partnership is another way we continue to elevate the guest experience across our multi-category business to drive traffic and preference as we meet guests’ needs in innovative ways,” said Christina Hennington, Executive VP and Chief Growth Officer at Target. “With two powerhouse retailers, our collective brand love, loyalty, and omnichannel expertise will inspire guests and raise the bar for the beauty shopping experience.”
As stores everywhere reopen their doors, vaccines become more widespread, and people seek to end their in-store shopping withdrawals, retailers are eager to get people back to their normal buying habits. Unfortunately, that’s a job easier said than done. Because, in many cases, that requires a re-imagined in-store shopping experience that bridges the gap between traditional shopping and the ecommerce environment.
So, what should you focus on to deepen customer connections and bring more people into your brick-and-mortar locations? Start with these three things to build a better in-store shopping experience:
Focus on interaction, engagement, and cross-channel conversations
Customer-friendly digital transactions and more convenient fulfillment methods have forever changed how consumers interact with their favorite retail brands. Now, even the most staunch in-store shoppers are turning to email, web, and mobile technologies for an enhanced buying experience that eliminates the need to seek out human interaction for any questions or concerns they may have.
And while many retailers planned on implementing automation, personalization, and advanced ecommerce tools to create competitive advantages long before the pandemic, this pace has accelerated over the past 18 months. Because now, these technologies are considered table stakes — and any brand that fails to integrate these elements to meet changing customer preferences and trends is destined to fall behind sooner rather than later.
Before that happens, introduce new digital modes of engagement into your in-store shopping experience. Things like contactless checkout, digital payment options, in-store rewards and discounts delivered via email, and mobile app-enhanced browsing are relatively easy ways to not only elevate your customer experience, but to create a seamless and connected conversation across every channel and interaction you manage.
Design your in-store shopping experience with customer safety in mind
Millions of customers are returning to your stores. But that doesn’t they don’t have reservations about unsafe in-store shopping experiences. For any brand looking to ease these buyer concerns, multiple things must be considered before you’re ready to re-imagine your brick-and-mortar buying process.
During COVID-19, state and city safety protocols varied greatly. And while these are starting to fade away, that doesn’t mean your shoppers are any less worried. So, take this opportunity to create your own company-specific guidelines to let customers know their well-being is your top priority. A revised facilities cleaning and maintenance schedule to keep high-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas of your stores clean, mandatory spacing between checkout guests and lines, signage and PPE at every exit and entrance, and knowledgeable associates well-versed on your policies are all small things that make a big impact when it comes to welcoming buyers back.
Beyond these standard practices, however, you can use technology to enhance your safety stance and enhance — not replace — human assistance in-store. Display monitors and digital signage can give shoppers real-time snapshots of inventory levels, online order pickup status, and answers to frequently asked questions without the need for a face-to-face interaction. Reserved shopper time slots, limited store capacities, and social distancing-friendly floorplan adjustments also make for new opportunities to reach out to loyal followers and bring them back into the brick-and-mortar fold.
Personalize every customer experience possible
As our annual research indicates, personalization strategies are maturing across marketing circles everywhere — and it’s happening quickly. After all, it’s the best way to enable a truly omnichannel experience for your brand. Whether someone chooses to shop in-store, on their phone, or from the comfort of their home, it’s critical that you provide a connected experience where every consumer feels heard, respected, and valued.
A personalized, in-store shopping experience is great. It helps potential buyers easily track down items, find answers and user-generated product reviews, and make purchases as convenient as possible. But what if they also received emails with personalized recommendations based off their unique browsing history, product preferences, and previously purchased faves? Or had a virtual fitting room or mobile app mirror to try things on without visiting a store?
By building a more comprehensive, rewarding customer experience catered to everyone’s specific needs, you elevate your future in-store shopping interactions to create loyal customers and lifelong relationships. And that’s something most people are likely to remember — not to mention share with friends, family members, and other interested prospects too.