A new product launch is an exciting time for a brick-and-mortar retailer — there’s so much potential for the company’s brand image, customer relationships and, of course, sales. A whopping 68% of consumers say their impulse buys happen in brick-and-mortar stores, and with the newness and excitement of a product launch, it’s the ideal time for customers to buy on a whim.
With so much at stake, retailers need to ensure their customers have a grade-A experience in the store during a launch. And making that happen is simpler than you think: It’s all about how employees interact with customers. Strong employee engagement boosts sales and customer satisfaction, so retailers must keep a staff of engaged, empowered individuals who are ready to deliver information to and answer questions for anyone who walks in the door.
The Key To The Best In-Store Experience: Employees
Companies like Trader Joe's know that employees can make or break a customer’s experience in-store. For instance, the grocery chain has its employees stocking shelves during the day, not overnight, so they have more opportunities to connect with wandering customers and answer their questions. Employees are encouraged to be friendly and chatty — not to rush customers through the store. Because of these interactions, customers view staff members as helpful resources, making for an excellent shopping experience.
And Walgreens is taking a different approach with a similar effect. The pharmacy chain has begun giving staff handheld computers and tablets to use during their shifts. When they interact with customers, employees can look up product data or place orders for home delivery right then and there. Customers leave feeling more knowledgeable and like they've saved time.
Strategies like these utilize a retailer's best asset — front-line employees — to enhance the customer experience, which is a key component of any successful in-store product launch.
Gearing Up Your Team For A Successful Product Launch
Don’t let a new product launch overwhelm your employees and detract from your customers’ experience. Consider these tips when preparing:
1. Equip employees with knowledge.
Fair or not, customers expect employees to have insight into every product the store sells at any given time. Retailers should recognize this expectation and empower employees to meet it by training them, especially those who work in or around the display area for the new product you're launching.
Help your employees help customers by giving them consistent visual messaging. Visually distinguishing the new product from the rest will help employees and customers be able to spot the new product quickly when looking down the aisle. Also, clearly display call-outs telling employees and customers how they can find more information about the product, such as a URL, a QR code or a phone number they can text. If you're consistent in offering this type of information for new products, your employees will take notice, and this can quickly become a consistent part of the service they deliver at the shelf.
2. Gamify the product's premiere.
It’s no secret that retail work can be draining on employees, so add some fun to the new product launch by making a game of it. This approach is effective: 87% of employees say gamification makes them more productive at work. Try holding contests for top-notch product displays, strong customer reviews or high sales for the featured product.
Of course, gamifying this experience can help employees be more engaged, but it’s important that retailers make sure the customer experience isn’t compromised for the sake of winning. Remind your employees that customer service is their No. 1 goal. Keep a close eye on customer reviews and customer service scores during your product launch to ensure your employees' focus doesn't veer off course.
3. Rally the team every day.
Launches can feel hectic, so take a few minutes at the beginning of every shift to go over the basics. I recommend giving employees a set of three bullet points to remember, such as where the new item is located, the product’s top feature and where shoppers can find more information.
Regularly refreshing employees' memories about the new product at the start of each shift will help them stay consistent and focused on what's important. Best Buy is just one example of a successful company that regularly communicates with employees to empower them to act in a way that both reflects company values and serves customers well. Work toward the same thing by starting every shift with a pep talk.
A great product launch doesn’t happen automatically; it takes plenty of internal buy-in and a solid understanding of a product on your employees’ part, meaning it takes plenty of effort from you to get them there. But with approximately 90% of sales still coming from physical storefronts, it’s more than worth the effort. Take the time to educate staff in a way that makes the product launch a great experience for them — in turn, they’ll be able to share that feeling with your customers.
Joe Schultz serves as the vice president of sales at Harbor Retail, which helps retailers and brands activate Harmonic Retail™ along the path to purchase. In the first phase of his professional life, he spent 22 years learning and growing at Target Corp. During his tenure, he was able to surround himself with inspiring mentors who taught him how to adapt quickly to the retail industry. Through his many leadership roles in stores, store operations, merchandising, and marketing, he learned to think nimbly, seek out new knowledge when approaching challenges, and be a champion for continuous improvement.