Knowledge of customer journey is a core requirement of any retail business today, but some retailers are so focused on simply getting customers to the shop door that they overlook the crucial role that physical store environment can play in that journey. Far from ending at the store threshold, a customer’s path to purchase can be enhanced greatly by in-store opportunities to engage and inform, even surprise and delight, and is where brands can be brought to life in a tangible way.

As bricks and mortar outlets compete increasingly with online shopping, it is more important than ever for retailers to ensure their physical store delivers on what their brand has promised the customer up until that point of arrival, with an experience that is simple, rewarding and enjoyable.

An understanding of your customer types and the journeys they take that lead to purchase is an essential first step, says BRANDPARTNERS Sales Manager, Andrew Holt. “An effective retailer identifies their customers’ start point, learns and acknowledges their preferred journey, and then guides them to the destination using elements like zones and hotspots to better cater to their specific requirements and to create an easier and more seamless shopping experience.”

Much of what you do to get customers to your store can be in vain if you don’t know how to lead them to purchase once they’re there.

There is a range of in-store techniques available to retailers: clever use of high traffic areas, creation of tailored zones for different customer needs, product placement, presentation of add-ons, price specials and point of sale. The skill lies in offering layers of information to draw customers through their journey in-store; prioritising messages without cluttering the space.

“The key is to know where the customer is on their journey and to offer them the right information at the right points,” says BRANDPARTNERS Creative Director, Chris Norris. “Cautious people might take longer and require time to reflect, so you might create zones to break away. Others may require an independent expert’s opinion, so having the ability to go to expert blogs within store [i.e. on a touch screen] can be a good approach.”

Holt says it is important to create a hierarchy for marketing and POS messages. “Many retailers rely on store staff to identify this, which in a larger retail chain often delivers mixed results. We prefer a more methodical approach by developing a kit of message delivery systems and processes that allow for consistent delivery of marketing collateral and cut-through in stores.” This can also help to reduce wasted print collateral.

Expanding a customer’s retail experience beyond the purely transactional is central to the rise of retailtainment, where entertainment and experiences are added to the retail mix. It’s something malls are testing locally: Sylvia Park in Auckland has a mini golf course and has just announced a new $9m premium dining precinct to open in December, while more large-scale international examples include Mall of Qatar with the world’s first resident troupe offering stage shows year-round, and The Em District in Bangkok with a 40m high artificial waterfall and rooftop water garden. Individual brands are ramping up the interactive nature of what they offer in store too – Nike installed a mini indoor basketball court and customized shoe bar in its New York store, while Walmart has signed up professional bull riders (with their bulls) to make in-store appearances throughout the year.

While retailtainment is in its infancy in New Zealand, Chris Norris says it’s something BRANDPARTNERS hopes to see more of as store owners realise the benefits it can bring financially and in a better understanding of customer journey. “If you had a great experience [in-store] it’s going to make it memorable. The more that people engage, the better data you can collect and the more you’ll delight them and build loyalty to your brand.”