The other day, over lunch, a colleague was telling me about a meeting he recently had with a prospective client. As with many of our meetings, the conversation centered around topics like the unification of channels, delivering a consistent customer experience, and digital commerce. One of the people on the prospective client’s team listened intently to the presentation but was especially quiet until the very end. When the salesperson asked for feedback on the presentation, the client’s answer was so simple, yet so insightful. He said, “You know what, these days, we just call it retail.”

His observation beautifully summarized the hour-long presentation from the customer’s perspective. Retailers are scurrying to implement omni-channel platforms, digital engagement tools, and the latest technology, but from the customer’s perspective, it’s all just shopping.

Most customers never stop for a moment to consider the complexity that goes into getting a polo shirt, for example, on a shelf in New York. From the cotton that was woven into the fabric of the shirt to the buyer that had to order just the right amount of stock in the right colors and sizes, and shipped to the right store, retail is an incredibly complex business. And yet, from the customer’s perspective, it’s just shopping. Something we all do on a nearly daily basis.

Have you taken pause lately to look at your business through your customers’ eyes? It can be easy to get so wrapped up with the business side of things that we forget about the human factor. As hard as most retailers these days try to be customer-centric, it’s easy to lose track of the shopper’s perspective.

Here are a few things you could do to put yourself in your shoppers’ shoes:

  • Get close with your sales associates. Speak with them often. They are the eyes and ears of the brand and will share great insights into where shoppers struggle, get frustrated, or what they really love.
  • Spend a day on the sales floor. Observe shoppers as they make their way through the store. Observe how they interact with sales associates, what draws their attention, and what questions they ask.
  • Speak with your customers. Ask them about their path to purchase. This can be through the form of a formal survey, or anecdotally while you’re spending time on the sales floor.
  • Ask sales associates to jot down a list of the top questions they get all the time. There may be simple things you can do to reduce shopper frustration (ex. a price sign is misleading, an aisle is too narrow, etc…).
  • Experience your stores as a shopper. Can you get around easily with a double stroller? How about in a wheelchair? Are there adequate places for shopping partners to sit near dressing rooms?
  • Google your brand and your products. What do you find?
  • If you have an app, download it.
  • Visit your brand’s website. Make a purchase. Check out the brand’s other sites: social media, blogs, etc.

Retailers have plenty of opportunities to continually improve the path to purchase. Taking a moment to go back to basics and see the shopping journey from the customer’s perspective can yield great benefits.