The Future of In-Store Experiences

Age of Experience

As we move from the Age of Information to the Age of Experience, customers increasingly expect a more curated, seamless shopping experience. They not only want retailers to understand what they want, but how they want it. And with the abundance of choice, both online and in-store, brands must continue to evolve and improve their in-store experiences, or risk being left behind. After all, with barriers to switching also coming down, losing a customer is increasingly only a click away… even if they’re standing in the store!

To attack this new paradigm head-on, we brought together the Forge Collective to explore their personal preferences and run through a series of empathy-focused exercises and time-boxed brainstorms focused on the following the prompt:

How might we create a more customer-centric and delightful in-store experience?

The Shoppers Dilemma

Our group of 15 participants, predominantly male on this occasion, prefer to use a combination of technology and people to gather information while shopping. Quality is the overwhelming preference when it comes to the overall shopping experience, with price and social interaction rounding out the bottom of the list of requested components.

Through one-on-one interviews, participants quickly identified a fundamental dilemma affecting the entire shopping journey – from discovery to support: uncertainty in deciding while feeling incessant pressure to do so.

With uncertainty, shoppers are overwhelmed and paralyzed by choice and find it difficult to assess the value of a product or service. What makes one product “better” than another? Am I getting the best deal possible? Does this brand align with my personal ethics and beliefs? Have any of my friends purchased this before? Is there a new version coming out soon that will make this obsolete?

On its own, a feeling of uncertainty isn’t fun. Add in the pressure caused by time-based deals, dynamic pricing and the ubiquity of micro-targeted advertising constantly reminding you of what you just researched, viewed and discussed with friends, and the situation gets even more stressful. So much so that, even once the decision is made, shoppers continue to second guess their actions and have feelings of buyer’s remorse.

Such needs and pains of today’s shoppers are simple to understand, but difficult to address. Customers want to feel confident and obtain the “right” information at the “right” time in the “right” format in order to make the “right” purchase decision. Any unexpected points of friction run the risk of them running straight into some other retailer’s outstretched arms.

Ready for Checkout

Through prototyping, many tested ideas aimed at how we might eliminate pressure and uncertainty in the shopping experience. Each idea fell in to three distinct themes: service, guidance and fun.

While shopping at a high-end fashion retailer, a Tinder-like kiosk lets customers select what styles they prefer and produces an analog printout guiding the shopper through a curated, in-store experience accompanied with a list of customized recommendations.

A one-stop-shop app for returns from all stores, pre-shopping preparation and alerts to shop when purchased items are dated or expired.

Each prototype brought ideas to life and solidified what shoppers expect:

“I need relevant information, with an easy path and a guide I can trust to help me feel confident about my shopping experience.”

An Amazing Shopping Experience

With a clear vision and understanding of our shoppers expectations, we were able to rewrite a more targeted design prompt:

How might we eliminate pressure and uncertainty in the shopping experience?

With each challenge comes an opportunity. And with each opportunity, retailers have a chance to look at their own in-store experience and ask themselves, “does the existing service, throughout the shopping experience, remove or introduce friction for customers?”

By doing so, you have the potential to create amazing experience you can’t achieve with the cool blue light emanating from their tablets while they shop from their couch (or bus…or desk). What other friction points have really stood out for your customers? And how do you plan to address them? Looking forward to the conversation in the comments.

> Download the Workbook

> See all the photos on Flickr

More About FORGE Events

FORGE events unite people from across industries and disciplines to spark powerful ideas and redefine what innovation can be in the workplace and in our everyday lives. Built upon our guiding principles, this collective of change agents seek to understand, brainstorm, empathize, iterate and solution on topics that are top of mind.

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Contributed by Tim Bowman and Nick Buckley. 78% of US



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