Is top-notch service enough? Today a retailer has to deliver more than that to capture interest and grab attention of those in their target audience, says Myrna Plaisir Daramy
I recently had a conversation with one of my bridal salon clients who felt stuck over how she could level-up her services and provide better customer experience to her brides.
She and her bridal stylists are extremely attentive to their clients, providing them with the highest-quality service. From the moment they come in for their first appointment to their final fitting every interaction is thought out and pristine.
But her concern is that brides have now become accustomed to this degree of service since it seems as if her competitors offer the same; she has begun to feel as if the exceptional level she provided now seemed typical and normalised.
This sentiment seems to be an industry-wide concern here in the US, as many of my clients in the wedding industry have expressed their unease about the fact that brides have made store-hopping and polyamorous vendor engagement a recreational sport.
It’s no surprise that today’s modern bride values customer experience. Research by American Express found that 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. In fact, studies show that by the year 2020, customer experience will drive customers, more than any other key brand differentiator, to spend more.
So what does this mean for bricks-and-mortar retail stores? In particular, bricks and mortar stores that don’t often have repeat customers?
It means that you have to map out all of your touchpoints into stages, consider the steps your customers take through their purchasing journey and improve every single customer touchpoint, including the ones that occur virtually.
Stage 1: Establish brand awareness
The first stage is to make your customers aware of your brand. This stage most often happens virtually so you need to take some time out to do a little research. You do this by assessing the habits of your ideal bride and identifying where they spend their time. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What websites do they use?
- What social media platforms are they using?
- What blogs do they read?
- What venues do they tend to select for their ceremony and reception?
- What magazines do they read?
Although most business owners believe that the customer experience starts with an inquiry or appointment request, chances are your target bride has already established an impression of your brand way before she fills out your inquiry form.
Your goal is to place messaging in the right locations that will connect with your target bride.
The most effective strategy to use in order to establish brand awareness is to make sure that your business name and profile information is cohesive throughout all digital touchpoints.
Your brides will encounter your brand in several locations so, in order to avoid any confusion and to establish consistency, your brand should look like the same business across all channels.
Another very effective strategy to use in this stage is reviews and testimonials. Although this is not your actual brand messages, millennials place a ton of value on the opinions of their peers and would much rather make decisions based on what others have to say about your store. I suggest making sure that you have solid reviews on platforms like Facebook, Google, Yelp, and popular wedding websites.
Stage 2: Remember your curb appeal
The second stage is to remember your online curb appeal by making it easy for brides to become familiar with you and establish an emotional connection. Before customers will do business with your retail store, they need to be interested, excited and feel welcomed enough to make an appointment.
At the end of the day, brides want to work with real, down to earth people who can truly connect with them and give them the guidance they are looking for.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is it easy to find your store? (Have you optimized your website?)
- Is it easy to tell what type of store it is and what you are selling?
- Is the mobile experience of your website amazing?
- Are there clear directives on what steps to take in order to move forward with purchasing from you?
- Do you create a clear customer experience vision for your prospects?
You have to look at your business as an outsider and consider whether your cues and information is clear enough to give brides sufficient information to move forward.
Something that has recently become very effective during this stage is to have self-service assistance options on your website.
Frequently Asked Question pages (FAQs) and online appointment request forms give brides the opportunity to get the information they need and makes it easier for them to move along the customer journey.
Create value-ads that will require them to provide you with their email address so you can add prospective brides to your email marketing list and send them exclusive content and promotions. Also, encourage customers to find and follow you on social media platforms.
Stage 3: Guide customers once they are moving closer towards coming in-store
The third stage is crucial because brides are actively engaging with several vendors at the same time before they actually come in for an appointment.
Establishing an emotional connection is very important. Your customer is looking for authenticity that would counteract any skepticism or doubt they may have. So you need to be consistent and transparent with whatever you tell them about your services. They will be fact-checking through their research so if what you reveal seems right, they will follow through and visit you in-store.
Once a bride sends you an inquiry, you have the opportunity to wow her and give her an idea of what it will be like to work with you. Adding special touches like video, what-to-expect guides, and informational content about gown shopping inside your email correspondence will give her clues on the overall experience. Your goal is to make every touchpoint a positive interaction and to provide the customer with exactly what they need when they need it.
Potential brides are learning from your every action what it’s like to work with you. They are doing research and seeking out information constantly.
So, in order to extend customer experience beyond what happens in-store, you need to consider these three stages. After all, brides care about the process almost as much as the outcome.
Wedding couples are all about the journey and not just the destination. They want to enjoy the 450 days of wedding planning, and not just the Big Day itself.