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Momentum is building for brick and mortar. While ecommerce markets remain strong, they’ve leveled off at just over 21% of all retail sales, according to recent data from Cushman & Wakefield.
Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation (NRF) notes that 2021 saw nearly double the number of brick-and-mortar openings as retail store closings, and 2022 is on track to be the first year of net-positive store openings since 2016.
While these numbers bode well for increased in-person shopping and steady-state online sales, they also come with the challenge of increased competition. With more stores selling more goods at similar price points, quality becomes the differentiator between consumer churn and customer conversion.
One of the biggest pieces of this puzzle is product presentation: The way products are displayed in-store or online. Get it right, and customers will stick around. Make mistakes, and sales start to slump.
Here’s a look at the impact of product presentation on customer perception and how retailers can avoid common pitfalls to see increased sales success.
Put simply, customer perception is what people think of your brand and product. The caveat? Much of this perception happens below the surface, meaning customers can unconsciously react to your brand, influencing their decision-making process — even if they’re unaware of it.
Consider an example from the Digital Shelf Institute (DSI), which explores one high-end apparel company’s efforts to increase sales and reduce churn. While the products themselves were well-made and worth the price being paid, problems in brick-and-mortar stores — such as messy clothing bins and clothing hung haphazardly on racks — negatively impacted customer perception of the product value.
According to ServiceChannel’s “State of Brick and Mortar Retail Report,” from 2020, 70% of those surveyed admitted to a negative experience in a store, with more than two-thirds of consumers saying they walked out of a messy or disorganized store.
Depending on what you’re selling — and where you’re selling it — poor presentation can have differing impacts.
Consider product sales in Germany. As noted by Ecommerce Germany, shoppers focus on product quality and price: Items should be well-made, fit for purpose, and long-lasting.
As a result, in-store or online displays should reflect this quality. Retail locations should make it easy for customers to evaluate the functionality of items, while online stores should highlight the materials used in construction and how they contribute to long-term reliability. By contrast, leaning into impractical or flashy displays can drive consumers away.
However, in the U.K., there’s more overlap between online and in-store purchasing. While consumers want the ability to visit stores in-person to examine items such as clothing and jewelry up-close, about 36% of those surveyed by Publicis Sapient said they also want mobile checkout options so they don’t have to wait in line. Force customers to wait too long for service, and the perceived value of items drops, in turn, making it more likely for consumers to choose other brands.
It’s also worth noting that 74% of U.K. shoppers now say that private-label (store) products are of equally high quality to brand products, according to Salsify’s “2022 Consumer Research” report. This means that trading on name alone won’t naturally boost customer perception.
And, research from the University of Manchester found that when it came to online ordering, consumers felt more confident making purchases if product pages included a wide selection of images. For example, photos of clothing on a real-life model or mannequin showing multiple angles and with a zoom-in feature correlate positively with customer confidence.
So how do brick-and-mortar and online brands ensure product presentation correlates positively with consumer perception?
This starts with the understanding that customers want to know as much as possible about what they’re buying — before they buy it. This includes what products are made of, how they’re manufactured, and how the manufacture of goods impacts the environment.
By providing this information up-front on retail product displays or online product pages, companies can improve initial impacts.
It’s also critical to build a community around your store or brand. Think about the early days of retailers like Lululemon, which leaned into both quality garment-making and cultivating an entire community around the concept of athleisure wear. Here, everything from social media campaigns to loyalty programs can help customers feel more connected to brands.
Finally, brands can benefit by leaning into omnichannel experiences that blur the line between physical and digital product purchasing. For example, the use of in-store virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), or the ability for customers to upload digital images online can help other potential customers see what products will look like before they buy — without the need to wait for fitting rooms or sort through clothing racks.
Not all attention is good attention. By ensuring products deliver a positive customer experience, however, physical and digital stores can improve customer perception and boost sales and conversions.
For the tools you need to tweak your product presentation and improve customer perception, check out Salsify’s “Complete Guide to Building Winning Shopping Experiences.”
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