“The importance of the shopper experience cannot be exaggerated”

“The importance of the shopper experience cannot be exaggerated”

The shopper experience has been a hot topic in marketing for a very long time, but today it has become a real necessity, says Bruno Hancké (managing partner at ThisPlays2). Together with Philips, Linkman, Resatec, Office Retail, Bart De Waele of Wijs and none other than prof. Cor Molenaar (Erasmus University Rotterdam) Hancké will organise a seminar at the RetailDetail Congress on 25 April called ‘Shopper Experience Marketing’.

Shopper experience marketing has become a must according to you?

B.H.: “It is not a new idea: at the end of the nineties Pine & Gilmore already wrote a study about the importance of the shopper experience. ‘Customer experience’ however has become crucial since the rise of the internet: especially the non-food sector feels threatened by the ever rising popularity of e-commerce.


Cor Molenaar says one in four physical stores will have to shut down. Anyone who wants to stay in the game has to make shopping really fun. Shops should be more than a space where products are being displayed.”


How can shopping become such fun?

B.H.: “There are different ways to get people to your shop. Either your promise to the client is straightforward, such as the lowest price or the best product, or it is all about the experience you provide. On the internet there is a lot to experience for the consumer: everything is fast and visual, because customers can see pictures, compare specifications, watch ‘making of’-films or fashion shows and so forth.


Offline retail also has to start making a dynamic impression. Shopping has to become more sensory: the biggest possible advantage of physical stores is they can play at all five senses, something which is impossible online. Retailers have to start doing this consistently, but in a pragmatic way: it is not about technology for technology’s sake.”


What is your opinion on cross-channel?

B.H.: “It is very important that there is cross-fertilization between offline and online. To achieve that, the retailer has to take two essential steps: first he has to create visibility online, second is to bring the internet to the physical store. In that way you connect those two and you make them into a coherent story. A retailer can, for example, use technology such as an in-store touchscreen with connection to the internet  to bring the complete assortment to the customer in the store.


Furthermore there still is a group of people that wants to get helped in a store. People who know what they want can be serviced online, but that is not always the case. Sometimes personal advice and real guidance just is necessary and the internet can never completely fulfll that need.”


Everywhere we here the consumer is changing. But why is this so threatening for shops?

B.H.: “It is no longer just about a crisis in retail, but about a real shift in the retail landscape. If physical shops do not quickly succeed in appealing to the consumer, then they will soon disappear. If you can not find what what you are looking for offline, you can often easily find your product on the internet. Location is becoming ever more important for offline retailers: the concentration in 'experience centres' will become higher, while B-locations will disappear.


According to Bart De Waele of communication agency Wijs, we are only at the beginning of the digitalisation of our society. The current generation of thirty-somethings and forty year-olds still have known separate appliances for each use – camera, mobile phone, navigation, and so on – but today everything can be found in one device and soon that evolution will go even further. Everything will be completely integrated and we will let ourselves to be guided by digital data.


How we should imagine this? Think about how dependant we are on our navigation systems: most of the time we just about know where we are going, but still we have a blind trust in this machine and we start feeling lost without it. This will start happening throughout our entire society and also in retail.”


How can social media help?

B.H.: “It used to be true that products were the focus, but today the relation with the customer is at the centre. A retailer has to build a ‘community’ of people that love his brand(s). We know from earlier experience that if there also is a good feedback to the shopping floor – for instance by pointing to social media on video screens – you create a powerful group of customers with whom it is very easy to communicate.”


Still, in times of crisis, this surely is not the moment to invest?

B.H.: “There’s no other option. The choice is between investing and going bankrupt. It is true these are difficult times to invest, but you can not see this kind of an investment as purely a cost.


Today we can calculate exactly what the cost per day will be and how much you will profit from it, as Resatec will prove at the ‘Shopper Experience Marketing’-seminar. Shopper experience isn ot something vague and intangible: it can be expressed in cold hard facts, by registering and counting customers and their movements.


Still we see that some retailers are very conservative and afraid to lose floor space to video screens or internet columns. This is a completely wrong attitude. Luckily the mentality is changing.”


What is the message of the “Shopper experience marketing”-seminar?

B.H.: “We focus on marketers and sales representatives in retail. We want to show that shops offer unique possibilities. Retails who embrace technology in a smart and pragmatic way and as such optimise the shopper experience will know a successful future.


What we will do at the pre-congress, is give them insights to think about and to help them develop a plan of action to have their shops gain power, so they will not end up being one in four shops to close down, as prof. Molenaar suggests.”



‘Shopper experience marketing’ is a seminar held before the RetailDetail Congress on Thursday 25 April in San Marco Village in Schelle (near Antwerp). The complete program of the seminar (PDF) can be found here. Participation in the seminar also includes free entry to the RetailDetail Congress; for registration please visit www.retaildetailcongres.be.