How To Nail The Retail Experience In 60 Seconds

Bryan Pearson , CONTRIBUTOR

I enter a store pretty much the same way I enter my kitchen.

I know why I’m there, I tend to follow the same path to the refrigerator every time and if I don’t see what I want fairly quickly, I close it and leave.

All in all, that takes about 60 seconds, which may be more than the average consumer gives a retailer upon entering a store or website. Those first few seconds can spell the difference between a long-term customer and zilch.

The retail experience should register with the senses, including — sight, smell and sound. And the product should be in easy reach. (Why so many retailers continue to hang the large clothing on the bottom rack is a mystery on par with why hot dogs are sold in six-packs and buns in eight-packs.)

I was curious to hear what real retailers and experts suggest. So I opened the question to all, from large marketing organizations to independent shop owners. Following are some of their responses, divided by in-store and online (with a bit of overlap).


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In The Store: Show(room) Time!

“For fashion or sports, what’s crucial is that first 20 feet into the store, the display that is on center is the best and highest quality of that brand. If you go into a Nike store, there’s usually a dramatic display of the latest technology leveraged in their footwear at the moment and it’s accompanied by a very sculpture-like mannequin.” — Tim Magill, design principal at retail architecture firm 5+design, Los Angeles.

“We have embraced a ‘red carpet’ sort of approach where our customer service representatives meet and greet our customers as they reach the end of the carpet of our store entrance. This has proven to be successful (as) it shows our customers how important their patronage is to us.” — Steve Michael, executive vice president, enterprise development, Phone-n-Fix, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

“It’s all about trust, so get your digital and physical presence aligned — customers hate price and service differences.” — Joe Carella, assistant dean at Eller College of Management, University of Arizona

“Offer customers craft beer or wine tastings in-store with the option of buying a pint or glass to drink as you go around the store. Lowes Foods (North Carolina) provides this. Also, provide reliable in-store Wi-Fi.” — Graeme McVie, vice president of business development at Precima retail analytics

“Ply them with sweets! Generously offering free samples to customers entering our stores translated directly into increased sales. More importantly, it starts off a relationship loop with our customers that keeps them delighted from store to (website) and back again.” — Sid Gupta, CEO and founder of Lolli and Pops national sweet shop

“Consider ‘retailtainment’ experiences and interactions that will both exceed customer expectations and add a level of unexpected surprise and delight.” — Shannon Andrick, vice president of marketing advancement, Alliance Data Card Services, provider of retailer credit card programs

“I fell in love with a pair of pants that weren’t available in tall length. I ordered them anyway, but when they arrived they were way too short, so I took them to the store to return them. At the register, the associate scanned my receipt and the system recognized me as a tall customer — and alerted the associate that the item was now in stock in my size! He offered to have it shipped to my home, so I ordered five pairs! This seamless and streamlined use of data created an experience that delighted me, all in 60 seconds.”— Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate, a Philadelphia-based multi-channel personalization platform.

Online: High Touch On Screen

“Shorten the path to cart. At every step/page, you’ll lose 30% of your audience.” — Josh Blanton, CMO and co-founder of Next Steps Digital

“Think mobile first. Make sure your mobile website is responsive and you can purchase in less than three clicks. Show pricing; show shipping estimates and charges to reduce fallout and returns.” — Carrie Chitsey Wells, CEO of BLK24, mobile strategy consultant

“The most critical component of retailing, especially online, is photography. We never use stock photography and there’s always ‘buyer intent’ behind each image.” — Adrian Salamunovic, cofounder and chief experience officer of

“If you don’t make the first three seconds of your visitors’ search count, you will lose the chance to sell to them in the next 57 seconds.” — Brock Murray, co-founder and COO of seoplus+, Ottawa, Canada

“An available inventory count listed along with individual products, as well as a real-time countdown to entice orders placed before xx:00 o’clock ship the same day. (Both are) great ways to not only capitalize on customers’ buying impulses, but also add credibility.” — Jake Rheude, director of business development for Red Stag Fulfillment, Knoxville, Tennessee

For all retailers, wherever they operate, I’ll close with this simple advice from Brad Schweig, vice president of operations at Sunnyland Furniture in Dallas, Texas: “Treat the customer like you would want to be treated. Period!”

Most retailers should nail that in 60 seconds.

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and my blog for more on retail, loyalty and the customer experience.

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