How In-Store Navigation Impacts Customer Experience

Few phrases conjure up more anxiety than “we’re lost.”

It’s difficult for some of us to even remember life before Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) navigation saved us from that feeling many times. We listen as Bertha or Simon or whomever we have named as the voice in the machine tell us to calmly “Turn Left” and then inform us graciously we’re 15 feet from our destination. And yet, within expansive retail spaces, we hunt like the human animals we are for the elusive dish soap or vitamins or organic greens. In-store navigation can have a profound impact on the customer experience.

in-store navigationFor years, the best retailers could do was to post a few signs way up above the aisles to inform us of categories.

As I hunted for quinoa in my local grocery store recently, I searched the shelves labeled “Pasta and Packaged” and saw all sorts of things in this category, including rice, beans, couscous and more. No quinoa. When I asked for help, a nice guy who had never heard of quinoa made a guess that it was in the paltry gluten-free/health food section. He was right. But that made very little sense to me.

In-store navigation can be so frustrating, customers have dedicated entire blog posts and Facebook pages to it! As we move into the era of omnichannel experience, creating in-store navigation that helps the customer on their terms becomes more and more vital.

Consider a few of the ways retailers and others can create a better in-store experience, and help customers find what they are seeking:

1. Updated and Detailed Signs

Target and others started putting more detailed signs at the END of the aisles for shoppers, where they will be walking by with the cart. This helps the customer move through the store without stopping at each aisle, looking up at the sign posted near the ceiling. Instead of just listing “Beverages” for example, Target lists the distinct categories like “Juice” or “Sports Drinks.”in-store navigation

2. Mobile Help

Several retailers have launched mobile apps to assist customers with in-store navigation. Home Depot’s mobile experience helps shoppers check the inventory of the item in that store as well as point to the correct aisle. Anyone who has wandered the vast landscape of a home improvement store can appreciate the help this could offer.

3. In-Store Guidance

In a recent panel discussion titled  Deliver a Better Shopping Experience: Consumer Products and Retail, Lauren Shanley, from the SAP Graduate Academy, stated how many Millenials shop:

She doesn’t want to buy groceries from a list; she wants to be guided through the entire process of making the delicious meal her best friend just posted to her timeline.

Tying in the navigation of an experience for the shopper could have powerful results.

My mom used to select an outfit she wanted for a gift, then draw my dad a map of where each item was in the department store. She was smart enough to know that if she just indicated “white shirt” and even included a picture and brand, my dad would most likely select whichever white shirt he happened to find first. Drawing a map was the best way to help him find what she wanted. Clever, right? Now think of the possibilities of doing this with wish lists, recipes, outfits, or experience shopping lists. Camping stores could put together in-store maps for “what you need for your first campout.”

In a way, registries for babies and newlyweds have been doing this for years. Bed, Bath and Beyond provides the hopeful couple with a scanner and a store list with what they most likely need. Anyone who has wandered into a Babies R Us as an expentant mother is handed a list of “what you’ll need” complete with aisle numbers.

Considering just how shoppers find what they need in your store is a big consideration.

And yet it’s ignored enough so that we, as customers, are often left to wander and hope for the best. THIS is where the phrase “I’ll just get it online” enters the discussion. And isn’t that with what in-store experiences are trying to compete?

Don’t discount the importance of in-store navigation. Your customers shouldn’t need to solve the riddle of a treasure map.

Photo Credits: fourstarcashiernathan, Lachlan Hardy via Creative Commons

Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

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