How to Get Your Retail Store to Stand Out: 5 Key Areas to Focus On

This is a guest post by Sophie Macdonald 

A study by Temkin Group found that 77% of customers would recommend a store to a friend after having had a good shopping experience there. That’s huge! Think of how many of your customers will tell their friends and family (and how far that word could spread) after having had a wonderful experience in your store.

Whether your brand’s style is colourful and energetic, or minimalist chic, make sure you’re delivering a shopping experience that will bring your customers back time and time again.

Not sure how to do that? In this blog, we shed light on 5 areas brick-and-mortar retailers should focus on in order to create in-store experiences that stand out. To help illustrate our points, we’re putting the spotlight on a handful of retailers that are doing amazing things in-store and online.

Before we dive into the strategies and tactics you can try, let’s first take a quick look at each of the retailers you’ll be meeting in this post:

  • Wellington Apothecary: When it comes to holistic healing, relaxing massages and gorgeous natural skin and beauty products that don’t cost the earth, Wellington Apothecary are a local hub. The energy as soon as you enter the store is calm, clean and homely with warm natural lighting and the captivating smell of herbs welcoming every visitor.
  • Caughley: Known in Wellington for being the one-stop shop for effortless fashion that doesn’t sacrifice comfort or burn a hole in customers’ wallets, Caughley haven’t just nailed their brick-and-mortar store, their online store is the perfect compliment to their products and brand.
  • Iko Iko: This vibrantly coloured, stand-out store is a household name in Wellington when it comes to gift hunting. With everything from artsy gift cards and novelty mugs, to sunglasses, beautiful bags and children’s books, Iko Iko is known for having something for everyone.
  • Madame Fancy Pants: Cuba St, Wellington is the place to be if you’re a small retailer with a little something special to offer, and Madame Fancy Pants is a true example of this. With beautifully selected garments, glamorous in-store decoration and captivating displays, MFP has mastered capturing the attention of browsing shoppers and intentional shoppers alike.

Also mentioned in this blog is Mecca Maxima. This multinational makeup retailer originally started in Melbourne, Australia as a small makeup store, stocking only seven emerging cosmetics brands. In the last twenty years, Mecca has grown from that little-known store in South Yarra to a leading retailer in several countries for small and popular make-up brands, even branching out and creating their own coveted cosmetic brand. Their branding and loyalty program, called ‘The Beauty Loop’, stands out in a saturated market of cosmetic companies’ emails. 

Now that we’ve covered a little about each retailer, let’s get started with the point of this blog: 5 key areas of focus for customer retention that will help to engage customers and foster loyalty.

1: Clear brand throughout your store

There’s no mistaking Iko Iko. Even from the street, every Wellington resident knows where this iconic store is located. Vibrance is core to the store’s brand and it’s a vital player of their customer acquisition and retention strategies – unforgettably noticeable. Simply walk past and you can’t help but want to explore Iko Iko’s colorful collection of products, and that doesn’t stop at the store’s exterior.

Iko Iko doesn’t stock their own brand of items. Instead, they curate a rainbow variety of products that meets a huge range of customers’ needs and desires. From gifts to personal purchases, Iko Iko appeals to a remarkably wide range of shoppers; because of this, it’s important that a huge part of their brand is related to the shopping experience and those vibrant colors.

Take a look at the images from within the store. There’s an abundance of colour and decoration but that never distracts from the beautifully vibrant stock itself. With clever use of wall space, display units, and organisation, the store doesn’t feel at all cluttered.

Their careful space organisation is more and more obvious as you get into the store; they have a wall dedicated to greeting cards, a book display unit, jewellery in another unit, bags at one end of the store and even a section for novelty crockery and kitchen-ware, yet somehow the store is fun, exciting and even in a busy shopping rush, it’s a welcoming space to come to.  

Iko Iko stands out from the crowd and it really works for them! While there’s a lot to draw your eye in Iko Iko, it’s engaging and feels like you could spend hours exploring. This is exactly what you notice of their customer’s shopping behaviour – people come to Iko Iko to peruse and enjoy the vibe. Even if your store is understated and minimalist, you want your customers to enjoy their experience – and carrying your brand and theme throughout your store in an appealing way helps shoppers to associate that positive experience with your store.

Just a few doors down on the same street, Wellington Apothecary is an entirely different example of nailing brand consistency in-store. As has already been mentioned, the ambience of the store is apparent as soon as you enter. Having a minimalist design really draws customers’ eyes to the details of each product, and that’s exactly the point with Wellington Apothecary.

Each product in the store is easily reachable, and that’s vital when it comes to products that customers are using on themselves. They want to be able to sample, smell and get a feel for products because they want to find the product that best suits their needs and when that comes to skincare, it can be a difficult process of elimination. The store itself is open, with beautiful lighting, a large display table in the centre and then shelving and smaller display units around the walls.

With display labels in front of each section of products giving details on pricing and bottle sizes, customers can make selections while trying out the testers supplied and making use of the in-depth knowledge of holistic remedies that Wellington Apothecary offers.

Their branding is consistent but subtle – their labels each have the same logo, font and stylings, and really help to nurture that feeling of wellness that the store emobodies. The whole store’s vibe really supports the brand, tying the shopping experience with a feeling of homeliness and peacfulness.

Giving customers the feeling that they can spend hours peacefully in your store is an art, and while every store is different, every retailer wants their customers to keep coming back. Wellington Apothecary’s brand is synonymous with calm and contentment and this invites their customers to come back again, time after time.

If you haven’t already, find what aspects of your brand you can filter into your store to give your customers an experience they won’t forget because they’re already subconsciously associating it with your store.

2: Product placement

We’ve known this one for a while, but sometimes it’s easy to forget – placing your products throughout your store is an art.

That old adage ‘eye-level is buy-level’ is key here and just think about it! Companies have been paying the big bucks for years to get prime placement in larger stores like supermarkets, aiming to have their products at browsers’ eye-level.

Making this work within a smaller brick-and-mortar store is, in many ways, easier. There’s no meeting the demands of companies that want to pay money for their products to be front-and-center, which gives retailers the opportunity to organize their stores how best suits the spaces. Let’s take a look at some examples:

Wellington Apothecary’s gorgeously cohesive product packaging and branding are eye-catching and classy. Up-close you get a full understanding of each product thanks to careful labeling and product organisation. Note that everything is within reaching-distance, and while it’s hard to tell from the photo, popular products are placed at eye-level or at the level where the eye is drawn to within the store (the top of the display table in the centre). Every product is placed purposefully with the branded label facing outwards so that customers know exactly what they are looking at. And as explained previously, this is exactly the kind of shop that you want to be in for a long time.

Just down the road from Wellington Apothecary is Caughley. As mentioned earlier, the interior design of Caughley makes for a beautiful shopping experience, and this is hugely supported in the way that they display their quality stock.

From the above image, you can see there is a lot of space to move around the store which streams natural light from large front windows. The clothes that line the walls are color-coordinated, drawing the customer’s eyes to a visually appealing lineup that makes it easy for customers to find their preferred patterns and colors. With shoes and bags to compliment the clothes on a shelf above, customers can’t help but imagine their options as an ensemble.

Everything in Caughley appears to be complementary to the store’s aesthetic – the clever choice of white-washed brick and concrete floors with natural wood displays helps the store to appear chic, clean and spacious with each new season of stock.

And there’s plenty of space between stock too. Notice from the centre display that clothing is perfectly folded and in small piles so that even when shopping gets a little haphazard, it’s a simple task to order the store and maintain customer’s experience of uncluttered, aesthetic decision-making. The same goes for the clothing racks – these are beautifully organised and have an ease of navigability that means that customers feel comfortable sorting through the rack without wrenching at hangers or dropping items.

It’s wouldn’t be a well-rounded analysis of product placement without referring back to organisational masters, Iko Iko. Their flamboyant store is bursting with stock that is so artfully arranged, the use of space in a small store is genius.

Popping with colorful posters and patterns, customers are inclined to peruse and it’s made so easy with everything lining the walls or carefully displayed on stands near the counter. Staff are always on hand to give customers advice and offer help, but you’ll notice that everything is within the natural range of eye-motion.

3: A consistent online to in-store experience

Seamlessness is key, particularly when it comes to customer’s experience of your store and it’s supporting website. Just like your brick-and-mortar store, you want your customers to know exactly where they are and what you’re selling.

Remember the description above of walking into Wellington Apothecary? It’s like being embraced with a cacophony of subtle scents and minimalist design that makes you want to simply browse and spend time there. Their online store doesn’t fall short in delivering a complimentary browsing experience.

Site visitors immediately know they’re in the right place with the Wellington Apothecary logo in the top-left corner of the page and a beautifully branded jar of Frankincense skin balm as the heading image. The clean site design and navigation bar helps customers to find exactly what they’re looking for, or to just explore the site.

As customer’s scroll through the different product categories, they’re treated to beautiful photography that shows off the stock as well as the Wellington Apothecary’s clean branding. With descriptions that tell you exactly what to expect of each product and its ingredients, it’s like customers are in-store talking to the apothecary’s knowledgeable naturopaths.

Another store that’s nailing that online-to-in-store flow is Caughley. Classy and cool, the Caughley website design nails their brand’s feel of street-style chic. Their crisp website design powerfully represents their stylish brick-and-mortar store, with the additional flow of subtle animations (such as a floating logo as customers scroll through the site) that adds to the feel of effortless cool that is also obvious in-store.

The distinctive branding, clear product categories, and easy navigation all make the customer’s online browsing experience simple and enjoyable, and from any page shoppers can scroll to the bottom and find the store’s contact details. Caughley’s staff are well-known for going above and beyond with their customer service and adding clear contact information to their website gives Caughley’s customers confidence that they will have a perfect online shopping experience too.

4: Loyalty programs that incentivize further purchases

In a 2016 study by Virtual Incentives, 56% of shoppers said that they felt receiving a reward that was personalized to them would make that store or brand appeal to them more. When it comes to brick-and-mortar stores, the question of how to pull off a loyalty program can sometimes best be answered by considering what’s working for others. There’s the old ‘coffee card’ system which works great for stores with certain products or services that are bought regularly, but what about when it comes to stores that have stock a wide variety of items?

Makeup mega-store, Mecca Maxima is well known for their successful ‘Beauty Loop’ loyalty program. With three different tiers that become accessible to customers at different 12-monthly spend rates, loyal customers can easily climb the tiers and receive generous rewards.

Though the one thing that really sets them apart is that their loyalty program isn’t restricted to one location – it works online and in any Mecca store. Customers simply sign up with their email (while in-store or online) and eventually add all their key personal details, and then every time they make a purchase in-store they’re simply asked if they’re part of the Beauty Loop; when shoppers make an online purchase, they just need to make sure they’re logged in to their Beauty Loop profile while doing so and the points are automatically attributed to that profile.

Mecca’s online system tells customers which tier they are a member of, and how much more they need to spend by x date to get into the next tier, and how much they have already spent in the last 12 months. Keeping their customers up to date like this not only lets those customers know when to expect a reward, but also incentivizes them to make more purchases so that they enter into the next tier and receive even better rewards.

The Beauty Loop loyalty program is easy to navigate, informative, and a powerful loyalty marketing tool in that it’s so accessible to customers. But not every store can afford to do large-scale giveaways like this.

Small-scale Wellington retailer, Madame Fancy Pants also utilizes a loyalty program that works both in-store and online, and it’s a program caters perfectly to their smaller customer database. Customers can work up to rewards like free shipping from online purchases and $50 off in-store and online purchase when they’ve earned 500 points. Simply by signing up customers instantly earn 30 points and start paving their way to tangible rewards. Check out their loyalty widget below.

By giving their customers the 30 point head-start, Madame Fancy Pants are already giving their customers even more incentive to join the program and keep shopping. Giving customers a little extra credit towards their loyalty program for simple acts such as sign-ups and social media shares also makes them feel appreciated and like being a part of the program is easy, helping to increase their purchase rate and frequency – it’s a win, win!

Marketing apps like Marsello, give retailers additional power to maximise on marketing like loyalty programs, without going to the trouble of creating them from stress. It’s always worth considering if something like a loyalty program would appeal to your customers and get them shopping with you more, which in turn is helping to drive ROI.

5: Customer Service is King

In each and every one of the stores that have been mentioned in this blog, they all nail their customer service. While it’s a different experience in each store, they all welcome their customers and offer a helping hand right off the batt. There’s no sense of pressure to purchase or judgment, every one of these stores has mastered making their customers feel comfortable, informed and confident about their purchases. It can be as simple as the Mecca Maxima employee affirming a purchase by saying something like, ‘I have this lipstick in this shade too, and I love it! It’ll look beautiful on you.’ Or when the Wellington Apothecary staff give you detailed advice on what skincare balm to use for your skin type and explain in detail why the ingredients in each product work the way they do.

But customer service is so much more than offering support, advice and information for your customers. It’s the entire experience that they have in your store, so perhaps you could consider customer service a limb of your brand. From browsing your products, to purchasing them, there are so many steps along the way that help your customers on that journey. Would your store benefit from offering free gift wrapping? If something is out of stock, could you take their details to let them know when it’s back in? What if a clothing item doesn’t quite fit, even giving your customer the details of a tailor nearby could be the prompt they need to complete a purchase.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Vend’s guide to increasing sales. This handy resource offers 10 proven tactics for boosting retail sales and improving your bottom line.

Specifically, you will:

  • Discover how to turn savvy shoppers into loyal customers
  • Learn how to add real and perceived value to each sale
  • Discover the most effective ways to set yourself apart from your competitors

    Learn More

Final words

Every store that features in this blog was chosen because they have their customer’s shopping experience absolutely nailed. They are organised, aesthetically captivating, trend-setters and house-hold names and they’re all with-in a short walk of each other. The key point that stands out here is that there are many small details that you can use to make your store and your products appeal more to your customers, but at the end of the day you need to ensure that your customers are having a top-quality experience shopping with you.

Author Bio

Sophie Macdonald is the content marketing specialist at Marsello, the eCommerce and POS marketing app that ticks all the retention marketing boxes with email flows, customer segmentation, tiered loyalty programs and more. Sophie has featured in numerous online and print publications including, Fashionpreneur’s Lounge, Shopify’s partner blog, GoBeyond AI, and InternQuest to name a few

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.