New Wharton research finds that 35 percent of shoppers have had an extraordinary -- or "wow" -- retail experience in the past six months. But in order to hit that mark, retailers must deliver on as many as 10 different elements of the shopping experience simultaneously. Retailers are rewarded when shoppers tell others about their experience.
"Peoples' expectations are pretty high. It's easy to (fall short of those expectations), and hard to eclipse (bad experiences, even) with something that's over-the-top," says Wharton marketing professor Stephen Hoch.
Wharton's Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative teamed with Verde and the Retail Council of Canada to discover how retailers can create an extraordinary experience for shoppers. In an online survey, 1,006 shoppers in the United States and Canada were asked: "Can you think of a shopping experience that you had in the past six months or so that was especially great, in that the experience created delight and surprise for you in any way?"
A report based on the research, titled "Discovering 'WOW' -- A Study of Great Retail Shopping Experiences in North America," points to five major areas that contribute to a great shopping experience:
-- Engagement: being polite and interested in helping, genuinely caring, acknowledging and listening.
-- Executional excellence: patiently explaining and advising, checking stock, helping to find products, having product knowledge and providing unexpected product quality.
-- Brand Experience: exciting store design and atmosphere, consistently great product quality, making customers feel they're special and that they always get a deal.
-- Expediting: being sensitive to customers' time on long check-out lines, being proactive in helping speed the shopping process.
-- Problem Recovery: helping resolve and compensate for problems, upgrading quality and ensuring complete satisfaction.
In all, respondents mentioned 28 elements of a great experience, such as salespeople who "immediately acknowledged you" or "could easily explain a product to you" or "seemed genuine."
Paula Courtney, chief executive of The Verde Group, says the typical wow experience has 10 of those elements at the same time. Further complicating the mission for retailers is the fact that the most important elements vary among individuals.
Retailers can focus on creating a "bedrock," or platform, based on the five major pillars of retail satisfaction to increase the probability of creating a wow experience. According to the research, four in five shoppers will tell an average of three other people about a wow experience.