Using location to enhance the customer experience

David Vernon
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Vittorio Radice, the man credited with turning London’s Selfridges into a profitable shopping destination, believes there are three elements to any successful store: product, place and service.

He is especially passionate about stores reflecting the personality and products of the town or area in which they are situated and I totally agree with this view. We all know how competitive the retail space is, so if brands take exactly the same approach to every store across their estate, with identikit shops across the country, what is it that makes them stand out?

Balancing localisation and uniformity
The challenge for retailers, then, is getting the balance of uniformity and localisation right. It’s obviously not possible for every store to have a totally different product offering or look and feel. And as shoppers, I don’t think any of us expect that. But we do expect to see some consistency between each store. At the same time, we appreciate some level of localisation. Because as shoppers, it feels as though the brand knows where we come from and values us as customers.

So how can retailers deliver a more engaging and localised experience without damaging brand consistency?

Here’s where placing an increased focus on localising the product, experience, and even the promotions on offer within the store, becomes more important. After all, it helps to create a sense of community and builds customer intimacy.

Ikea and B&Q are both great examples of retailers taking a more localised approach with their mini-stores, by selling a smaller selection of their best-selling items. As more compact stores, they have the flexibility to adapt to customer trends and needs quickly, by altering their product portfolio to include specific items that sell well in that particular area. Taking this approach means they can offer something of real value to local communities.

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Getting to know your audience
But knowing which selection of products to put on display also requires an understanding of your shopper’s demographic. It’s very likely that there will be variations in the wealth, age, ethnicity and family situation of your shoppers in each store location.

Supermarkets have taken this approach for years. They often adjust their product offerings to meet the needs and preferences of the local community, stocking products that reflect the cultural and ethnic tastes of local residents. And I strongly believe the same demographic considerations should be given to store promotions and offers as well. After all, as shoppers, most of us have almost come to expect some degree of personalisation nowadays. And if you shop online, which most of us do, we’re all used to receiving offers that relate to our preferences and what we actually buy.

Getting offers right
When it comes to offers, taking location into account can have a big impact on their success. Take the example of offering people who shop in the evening a free glass of wine when they pick up their shopping on the way home from work. That might be ideal for a city centre location, where the majority of shoppers are commuters who get public transport to the store. But that same offer may not perform anywhere near as well at an out of town store, where people get there by car. Here, family-friendly promotions would be more appropriate, a pack of cupcakes or a family pack of ice creams, perhaps.

Knowing your community
Understanding the needs and preferences of your customers is essential if you want to provide them with the best customer experience. By tapping into the local tastes, characteristics and preferences of your customers, you can make smarter stock and merchandising decisions. And to add a further element of differentiation to each store, you can even develop more tailored marketing campaigns that are more likely to appeal to your shoppers.

Demographic data combined with real-time data gathered at the POS can give an excellent insight into your customers’ shopping preferences across your different store locations. But adding historical data to the mix gives you an even deeper level of insight when it comes to determining shopper requirements.

Ultimately, it’s all about knowing your customers and giving them what they want. Get that right and it’ll lead to a deeper connection with your brand and a greater sense of loyalty.


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