Improving in-store experience

3-minute read

Retailers: how improving your in-store experience can help boost sales

Wed Jan 31 2018

Whatever shop you go into these days, you’re likely to see similar tactics to encourage you to buy.

Does your local supermarket put fresh fruit and flowers at the front of the store to entice you in, for instance? Are essential items such as bread and milk stocked near the back so you have to walk through the shop to get them? And is the area near the checkouts filled with impulse-buy treats?

From background music to lighting, retailers have been examining the psychology of buying habits ever since the American journalist Vance Packard published his seminal work The Hidden Persuaders in the 1950s.

Shopping habits have evolved a lot since then, particularly with internet shopping taking off in the 21st century. The value of the UK’s online food market is expected to reach over £17 billion by 2020.1 And online sales of clothing, fashion accessories and footwear doubled in value between 2012 and 2017, according to Mintel’s Online Fashion UK 2017 Report.2

Many retailers have invested sensibly to streamline their customers’ online shopping journey, make sites accessible on different devices, and ensure checkouts are convenient and secure.

But the in-store experience is still a major money-spinner. Data from the US Census Bureau notes that over 90 per cent of sales in America are still happening in physical stores.3 More importantly, conversion rates are almost twice as high in physical shops as online, according to Barclaycard research.4 A quarter of consumers buy something almost every time they visit a physical store, versus just 12 per cent of shoppers on websites.

This is a major insight for retailers. If you’re looking to boost your profits, you should be focusing as much on your customer’s experience in bricks-and-mortar locations as on how they interact with your brand online.

What’s driving your customers away?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just getting more people through your doors; you’ve got to sustain their good mood all the way to the checkout.

Our research showed that the average shopper abandoned over £34 worth of purchases a month after becoming frustrated. That means UK retailers are missing out on £11.6 billion each year by not making their in-store environments more shopper-friendly.5

More than half of respondents in the Barclaycard survey (55 per cent) had walked away from a purchase in-store because they were disappointed with their high-street experience. The most common pain-points they noted were long checkout queues, long waits at fitting rooms, and a lack of staff available to help.

How can you improve the in-store experience?

The secret to catching those customers before they ditch their baskets is to give your shoppers something that makes their life easier.

If you really want to create a personal shopping experience, revamp your store’s layout, introduce faster payment systems such as contactless card machines, and offer in-store deals that aren’t available online.

Many vendors are already responding to shoppers’ demands for more convenience by offering more stock choices, and adapting their opening hours to fit around flexible working patterns. Eighty per cent of retailers who have improved the shopper experience in their physical stores have seen an increase in turnover as a direct result – with an average revenue uplift of 14 per cent.6

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on elaborate gimmicks; just think of the basic things you can do to make your in-store experience better, such as reducing queue times or engaging your staff.

For example, you could let your customers skip the checkout queues by using ‘pay before’ technology, such as click-and-collect and in-app payments, or ‘pay after’ options, so your shoppers can take items home and pay in an agreed window – say 14 days. You could also give your shoppers somewhere to leave their bags or hold in-store events to engage with your customers.

Also, don’t feel limited by the physical space you’ve got. Emerging technology such as digital kiosks or smart mirrors could act as ‘extra aisles’ to help you promote your stock to your customers, and let them 'virtually' try clothes on, for example.

Your customers’ expectations are changing – online and in-store. So think of the occasions when you’ve enjoyed shopping. If you want to flourish, create an in-store experience that keeps your customers happy, and encourages them to return to your shops again and again. If shopping in your store isn’t a fun experience, you’ve just lost out on a sale.

To learn more about taking payments in-store, including contactless, check out our card machine options. 


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5 The figure of £11.6 billion (£11,631,844,762) was calculated by extrapolating the proportion of the 2,002 UK adults in the survey who have abandoned a purchase in-store in the last year (1,094) to the total UK population. This was then multiplied by the average amount of money UK adults would have spent on the purchases they abandoned in-store in the last month (£34.27), to provide an estimated overall monthly revenue opportunity figure. This was multiplied by 12 months to provide an annual figure. The total value of UK retail sales in 2016 was £358 billion (source: Retail Economics). 

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