The customer experience. It’s often talked about, chased after, and sometimes—sadly—not considered at all. But in an environment where omnichannel shopping is dramatically impacting physical retail stores, maybe it’s time for the customer experience to be better understood.

In that light SeeLevel HX, a customer experience and business intelligence company, embarked on a study in New York City. This study is unique in its qualitative nature; instead of gathering volumes of quantitative metrics, the organization chose to focus on the organic experience of just 30 stores in the city.

Retail clients served by mystery shopping company SeeLevel HX

Only these 8 stores got their CX right!

New York Flagship Store with good customer experience

Out of all 33 stores, when found only 8 had a great customer experience. From them several key themes rose to the top of the analysis:

Energy and Touch

Starting off, we found that the brands Superdry and Sunglass Hut stay true to the brand experience that they promise. Both of these locations are very high-energy. A highly-personable greeter meets a customer the moment they walk into the store, helping them navigate to where they need to be. During our visit, the greeter at Sunglass Hut introduced herself with something that we feel will resonate strongly with new customers: “If you’re just browsing, please enjoy it, and then if you need anything, I’ll be right here,” she said. While this may seem simple, it was actually a great sales opportunity to say, “I know that you may or may not be in a purchasing mood, but please enjoy the space.”

Sephora is another brand that we consider “phenomenally supportive” to their customers. This means that the store visited was so high touch that they literally held our associate’s hand during the entire event. They made her comfortable and happy, letting her try on products until she purchased a lipstick. We wondered if this experience was repeatable, so we tried three other stores, which resulted in the sale of three other products with the exact same experience.

Next up is Adidas, who applied their high-energy, high touch approach to a multi-level store in a way that was entirely not prescriptive. When faced with both male and female customers, they did not focus on the needs of one or the other. Instead, they directed them to where they could find both male and female-oriented products—and by the way—they warned of a soccer match that was happening on an upper floor. This not only helped with the practical need of store navigation, it set the stage for the energetic atmosphere that is the Adidas brand.

Customer needs analysis

But some stores do not just reach out and engage their customers. They actually conduct an on-the-spot needs analysis to customize their engagement approach. Rebecca Minkoff targets the destination shopper by welcoming them and asking: “So why are you here? What’s the occasion? What are you looking for?”

The customer, in this case, is walked through the entire shopping process, augmented by technology including interactive mirrors and digital fitting rooms. This technology is very high touch and very experiential, yet also unintrusive. The overall experience makes customers want to stay in the store, and really use and enjoy the products.

In another example, La Maison Du Chocolat features the same customer needs analysis process and a high-touch atmosphere, but uses direct personal engagement, rather than focusing on technology. There was a single representative in the store, but she asked questions, let our associates try products and assisted in information on online delivery for any product that was not currently in that store’s inventory. The store representative did a wonderful job of understanding what she could do to drive the customer experience forward.

Engage, but don’t engage

Some brands we found utilized a very interesting tactic of engaging with customers, but only when they thought the customer would be receptive to that engagement. Bloomingdale’s would follow our associates, but would only engage if they looked lost or unsure of where to go to find what they needed. But when they did engage, they made sure their customers could find their way to their destination. After that, the store representative simply stepped back and said, “If you need us, we’ll be right over here.”

Tiffany’s had a more formal style of engagement that started with, “Hello Madam, good afternoon. Where would you like to go?” But after that, the store representatives were low touch, unless eye contact was made. They were always paying attention and ready to re-engage at a moment’s notice. This was all very representative of the Tiffany’s brand: formal, helpful but not pushy.

What not to do!

“Table Stakes” not being met: These events run from no greeting upon entering to an associate focusing on internal store processes over meeting the needs of their customers. Other examples include poorly-stocked merchandise, a dirty store or lighting issues.

Table Stakes

Technology such as iPads that didn’t work as intended or were not plugged in. One one occasion, the store associate said that they did not even know why the technology was installed at that specific location.

Product Specialists that did a great job with knowledge and assistance, but then disconnected the experience by handing our associate off to someone else before completion of the event. In order to move forward, we had to begin the journey again.

Product Specialists
Experience Delivery

The bottom line

As previously stated, this was a purely qualitative exercise. But what our associates experienced aligns with the quantitative data we’ve collected at SeeLevel HX through approximately 250,000 shops a year. This experiment validates our hypothesis which is this: It’s absolutely critical to know who you are as a brand and deliver on the promise that is unique to you. Delivering on who you say you are makes a greater impact in the minds of your customers than what you’re actually delivering or who you’re delivering it to. At the end of the day, it really is the experience that matters.

Are you one of these stores? Or are you interested in having your customer experience checked by our mystery shoppers? Contact us today!