Will UX methodologies bolster retail’s brick & mortar future?
With the never ending concern over the ever changing role of brick & mortar retail and debates on how retailers can stay relevant in a world of continued e-commerce growth and rapidly ramping m-commerce adoption, a lesson from the user experience (UX) designer’s playbook provides guidance to more engaging and fruitful consumer shopping experiences ahead.
UX is famously based upon the principle of delighting users (customers). The people officially tasked with that responsibility, UX designers, are mandated to be the "voice of the consumer" and to represent their interests and happiness at every touch point.
There are a number of facets to UX design, starting from research and flowing through prototyping, testing, implementing, retesting, and iteration. Done well, the process absolutely makes user experiences better and more pleasing — something always needed in retail.
There’s one paradigm in particular that retailer’s will benefit from if they adopt and morph into the physical shopping experience. It’s foundational to what UX designers seek to accomplish. It’s reducing the number of clicks. In other words, if a website checkout process can reduce the number of clicks from four to two, consumers will notice and be appreciative. It’s not hype. Amazon patented "one-click checkout" in 1999.
In brick & mortar retail, "clicks" can be seen as the number of steps a shopper must go through to move from product desire to ownership. Apple understood this when it empowered associates to check out consumers sans cash register, anywhere in the store.
Checkout is just one multi-step process. Another crucial activity worth scrutinizing (amongst many) is product discovery. Depending upon the retailer, it can be tedious, frustrating, and downright deal breaking.
By examining (through the consumer’s lens) the micro-journeys people embark upon during a shopping trip and reevaluating for methods to reduce "clicks," retailers can amp up the likelihood that people will make purchases in-store. By committing to trashing impediments, making information accessible, and intentionally injecting moments of excitement, surprise, reward, and met expectations, burdensome and unnecessary "clicks" can be ripped away. Customer experience is then elevated, organically motivating shoppers to share and evangelize for the brand.
Retailers willing to apply UX methodologies to each in-store consumer experience and the shopping excursion as a whole, unquestionably position themselves to remain relevant and offer benefits that m/e-commerce cannot. Inexplicably, it seems to me, the majority of merchants don’t recognize the need nor dedicate resources to address this. Why?
Are most retailers actively engaged in designing user experiences that meet the needs of customers at touch points throughout shopping trips in stores? What opportunities including and beyond reducing “clicks” do you see that retailers can improve the in-store customer experience?