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Own the Moment Hockey Experience, Burlington, Massachusetts

BY CSA STAFF
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Bauer Hockey's first-ever physical store is designed to provide the ultimate showcase for the 88-year-old brand and the sport itself, combining expert help, customer service extras and extensive selection.

The 20,000-sq.-ft. store features an indoor ice rink where customers can try out equipment before they buy it. Some 25 digital screens show visual highlights of the game and add to the excitement of the space. An on-site laboratory offers expert skate sharpening services.

Own the Moment was designed by Toronto-based Perennial Inc.

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Five Tips to Improve the In-Store Experience

BY Mike Lewis, TimeTrade

Much has been said lately about the proliferation of mobile and online shopping. But brick-and-mortar retail continues to thrive – a fact that tends to get glossed over.

TimeTrade recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 consumers, and the findings revealed something interesting about shopping behavior. 87% of respondents said they plan to shop in stores in 2015 at least as often as they did in 2014. When asked about Amazon's brick-and-mortar land grab, 71% said they would prefer to shop at a physical Amazon store versus Amazon.com. These trends are all intertwined, and omnichannel retail is forever changing consumers’ path to purchase and, consequently, how brands need to think about the in-store experience.

Today, more and more consumers have already done their homework when they walk into a store. They come armed with knowledge around product features, pricing and competitors’ offerings and expect store associates to be mind readers. To know when and how they want to be approached in the store, what other products might interest them and even their past buying behavior. This is the struggle for retailers.

So how do retailers cater to the discerning, savvy customer of today and optimize in-store sales in an omnichannel world?

Here are five tips that will help retailers meet the needs of the modern consumer:

1. Make every customer feel like a VIP
Personal shopping has long been the privilege of the elite, but with today’s technologies, that luxury experience can be extended to the masses. The TimeTrade survey revealed that 50% of consumers believe the most important value in a sales associate is the ability to make smart recommendations, but it is hard for associates to make those recommendations when they cannot focus on a single customer.

Retailers must make sure they are converting first-touch inquiries into high value in-person meetings. Once customers are in-store, they must provide a knowledgeable associate dedicated to that specific customer. It’s this type of attention that creates a true VIP shopping experience.

2. Empower your associates
Training associates can be costly and time consuming, a challenge that’s compounded by high turnover rates. However, empowering employees with tools so they can provide knowledgeable information and recommendations on the spot will improve their effectiveness. TimeTrade’s primary research has shown that consumers are 91% more likely to return to a store if a knowledgeable associate has helped them. There are tangible gains to be made by arming associates with the right customer background and the tools needed to turn a $50 sale into $150.

3. Develop customer profiles
Retail associates will never be mind readers, but there are certainly inferences that can be drawn when given the right information. Having a customer profile of purchase history and preferences is key to winning in the “concierge economy.” Powerful analytics tools can deliver prescriptive insights into a customer’s end-to-end experience. Imagine never feeling like you're starting from scratch when a customer enters a store.

Providing associates with a 360-degree profile of the customer equips them with the tools needed for cross-sell and up-sell. At the same time, the customer is impressed that the associate already knows their personal preferences, likes and dislikes. This enables the retailers to provide that VIP experience.

4. Decrease wait time
Consumers today feel their time is invaluable. Patience is no longer in their vocabulary and long waits will directly correlate to lost sales. Retailers can offer their customers options such as appointment scheduling or self-service kiosks so they can walk into a store knowing they will meet with an associate right away for assistance. This way, customers do not feel as though they’re time is being wasted – or worse – the brand isn’t being respectful of their needs.

5. Never stop improving: use analytics wisely
Consumer behavior is always changing. To stay on top of it, retailers must constantly track their customers’ end-to-end experience and use that data to improve operations. A mobile survey that immediately follows a customer’s interaction will be able to record a Net Promoter Score. Drill-down analytics will be able to give C-level executives and managers an assessment of what’s working and what’s not on a regional, store and even individual associate level. This allows for improvement across all areas.

As traditional e-tailers such as Warby Parker and Amazon start opening up physical stores, the in-store experience is more crucial than ever. It’s up to the retailers to transform their operations along with consumers’ changing behavior in order to survive.


Mike Lewis is chief marketing officer of TimeTrade, which offers SaaS-based self and assisted-service appointment scheduling solutions for enterprises and individuals.

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FINANCE

Ulta roars ahead in Q2; on track to open 100 stores and launch TV advertising

BY Marianne Wilson

Bolingbrook, Ill. — Fast-growing Ulta Beauty shows no signs of losing its momentum as the specialty retailer reported better than-expected results for the second quarter and raised its guidance.

On its quarterly earnings call, Ulta said it will launch a national television advertising campaign.

Ulta’s net profits increased 8.5% to $74.2 million, from $60.8 million in the year-ago period, helped by an improved online assortment and less overall discounting.

Net sales jumped 19.4% to $877 million, up from $734.2 million for the same period a year ago. E-commerce sales skyrocketed 43.4% to $36.1 million from $25.2 million in the year ago period, representing 120 basis points of the total company comparable sales increase of 10.1%.

Same-store sales rose 10.1% (with online sales representing 120 basis points of the total), compared to an increase of 9.6% last year.

Retail comparable sales increased 8.9%, including salon comparable sales growth of 10.1%.

As previously announced, Ulta expects to open 100 stores in 2015 and drive comparable sales in the range of 8% to 10%.

“The Ulta Beauty team achieved outstanding results in the second quarter, with top line momentum delivering better than expected earnings growth,” said Mary Dillon, CEO. “Strong traffic growth drove healthy comparable sales increases across stores, salon and e-commerce, while average ticket growth also contributed. An exciting pipeline of new products, combined with increasing effectiveness of our marketing strategies, drove market share gains across all categories.”

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