6 Ways Stores Try to Keep You There

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Retailers face a greater struggle now than ever before not just to attract customers to their bricks-and-mortar stores, but also to keep them there for longer and increase the chances of making a sale.

The same technology that makes it possible for consumers to shop online while on the go or at home, rather than having to rely solely on traditional stores, also makes it easier for consumers to be more efficient when they do decide to shop in a physical store. Anyone with an Internet connection can effectively pre-shop on one of the many sites that offer price comparisons, display store catalogs and highlight special deals. Armed with a smartphone, shoppers can do all of this while in the store to ensure they are in and out more quickly.

“New technologies have changed the dynamics of the shopping experience for many consumers and given them the tools to maximize their time,” said Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. “In some cases, you have consumers who are so well-educated in the store’s selection that they actually know more than the person working there might.”

It’s not only that consumers have more technology on hand for shopping, but also that they have less time to shop in general. As Butler points out, it was more common several decades ago for families to have a single income earner, leaving time for the other adult in the household to run errands and shop at their leisure during the week.

But with more families having both parents work 9-to-5 jobs, there is less time for either of them to shop. Indeed, some households have seen their free time constrained further in recent years by the recession, as many workers have been forced to shoulder greater workloads and put in longer hours at the office.

From a consumer perspective, it might seem irrelevant whether you’re in the store for five minutes or 30, as long as you make a purchase, but from a retailer’s perspective, the longer you hang around, the more likely you are to buy additional products that you may have otherwise overlooked had you left the store sooner.

The great challenge for retailers going forward, then, will be to find ways to entice savvy shoppers to stay longer without feeling they wasted their time.

“If you get the customer to stay a few extra moments in the store and spend a little extra money, all while giving them what they wanted, then you’ve won,” said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a marketing firm. “But if the customer leaves feeling they’ve wasted their time, then the retailer loses.”

For that reason, retailers must be especially creative in finding ways both to attract customers and encouraging them to stay and spend. MainStreet spoke with several retail experts about steps that stores can take (and in many cases already do take) to entice their customers to stick around longer.