Decoding the In-Store Shopping Experience

Retailers Surpass Expectations in People, Product, Presentation, and Returns

Decoding the In-Store Shopping Experience

In recent Wayfind articles, we challenged retailers to meet four key operational criteria during the holiday season:

  1. People: Staff your store adequately and train them well
  2. Product: Keep shelves well-stocked at all times
  3. Presentation: Maintain appealing and organized visual merchandising displays
  4. Returns: Make returns processes simple and easy

Related: Mastering the Online Returns Game: How Retailers Can Overcome the Challenges of Online Shopping and In-Store Returns

With the 2023 holiday season in our rearview mirror, we took the opportunity to understand consumers' in-store experiences and gauge their satisfaction levels with the holiday shopping ventures they embarked upon.

Let's review the results!

Myth: Consumers aren't shopping in stores anymore

We surveyed 700 consumers to gauge the landscape of in-store holiday shopping. Over 84% of respondents shopped in brick-and-mortar locations over the holiday season, proving our point that retail isn't dead!

Related: The Creative Catalysts Guide to Thriving in the Evolving Retail Landscape: Learning to Evolve, Pivot, and Understand the Shopper Journey is Just Part of the Story

We then asked those customers who shopped in stores to rank their satisfaction levels in regard to stores' people, product, presentation, and returns. We were pleasantly surprised by the results!

Between 65% and 75% of customers expressed extreme satisfaction or satisfaction across all four categories, with an impressive +90% reporting at least a neutral experience in each category.

Our Key Takeaways

1. Availability of Assistance: Retail's number one asset isn't a shiny new store or the latest trend—it's people.

Once upon a time, you were greeted at the door of every retail location you walked into and asked if you needed assistance. More recently, we've found that tracking down an associate to ask for help feels like wild goose chase, so we were surprised over 50% of consumers reported being extremely satisfied and satisfied with the availability and helpfulness during in-store holiday shopping respectively. Making up the other slices of the pie, 26% of consumers had neutral experiences with staff, 7% were dissatisfied, and 2% were extremely dissatisfied, so still room for improvement!

2. Availability of Merchandise: The perfect gift could be sitting in the backroom…

If you've gone to the hassle of going all the way to a store, you're going to be disappointed to see bare shelves and walk out emptyhanded. For the most part, it seems like the majority of customers didn't run into this problem. Of the nearly 600 consumers who shopped in stores, 72% found everything or nearly everything they were looking for with few exceptions. On the flip side, that means that nearly 30% of customers faced several out-of-stock problems, negatively affecting their overall shopping experience.

3. Visually Compelling Stores: Wow me with storytelling!!!

Bringing products to life in your displays in well-told stories helps customers connect to a brand and increases the basket size at checkout. This holiday season, 34% of consumers were extremely satisfied with the visual merchandising and felt like the well designed and organized displays both enhanced their shopping experience and influenced their shopping choices. 39% of consumers were only slightly less impressed by stores' visual merchandising. From there, 21% felt neutrally about the visual merchandising—it neither added not detracted from their shopping experience – 5% somewhat dissatisfied with the visual merchandising, and 1% felt like the disorganization and poor visual appeal of displays significantly detracted from their shopping experience.

4. Returns Made Simple: It's okay to make a mistake!

With more purchases comes more returns, something retailers aren't always equipped to handle. This holiday season, nearly 68% of consumers reported feeling extremely satisfied or satisfied with their returns, finding the overall process smooth and staff helpful. However, that still left 27% having neutral experiences and over 5% feeling dissatisfied.

The consumer has spoken, and stores delivered above our expectations. However, they still aren't in the clear. Retailers should continuously strive to capture the neutral and dissatisfied customers by enhancing their operations when it comes to people, product, presentation and returns. The pursuit of improvement doesn't stop there – it extends to what WD's Lee Peterson identifies as the "vibe" of their store. Discover more insights on this in our article "Everything in Retail Has Changed. Has Stores Kept Up?"

Wherever you need help in just one operational area or all four PLUS your store's vibe, we're here to assist you on your journey to creating extraordinary experiences for every customer that walks in the door!

About Wayfind

Lost and in need of guidance? That’s why we created Wayfind—the WD blog designed to be your beacon in this rapidly evolving world. In these short, thought-provoking reads, you’ll discover insights into the minds of your consumers and be inspired to go out into the world to create your own extraordinary experiences.

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