Doug Fleener's

The Day Makes the Year


The SEO of an In-Store Experience

Mar 14, 2024

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the linchpin of success in the digital world. It draws visitors through a website's virtual doors by enhancing its visibility and engagement in search engine results.

In contrast, websites with suboptimal SEO strategies rely on extensive advertising efforts to attract visitors. This dependency increases marketing costs and lacks the sustainability and organic growth potential that a robust SEO strategy provides.

While my expertise is in retail and not web design, the principles of SEO offer valuable lessons for creating unparalleled in-store experiences.

A store's SEO experience has three elements. I use this model in experience design, retail consulting, and benchmarking a retailer's in-store experience.

  1. Speed
  2. Engagement
  3. Outcome

You can also use this model to define and elevate your store experience and sales. Let's briefly look at each element.

Speed. While we often think of speed as fast, that may or may not be the desired experience for a customer. Speed is defined as the rate at which an object covers distance. In retail, it is the rate at which a customer goes through the experience.

Here's the most important thing to know: The speed of the experience should meet the customer's needs and expectations, not the retailers'.

A retailer once told me they expected their employees to keep customers in the store for at least five minutes or more. I suggested they lock the door after a customer comes in to be wildly successful. Not.

If a customer is in a hurry, we're in a hurry. If a customer is taking their time, we take our time.

It's essential your staff know how to identify the right speed for a customer and shape the experience to meet the customer's expectations.

Engagement. A well-defined and executed engagement creates meaningful and interactive experiences that capture the customer's interest, build an emotional connection, and encourage active participation with the employees and products.

Engagement encompasses all aspects of the in-store environment—from store layout and visual merchandising—to music and signage—but the most vital and differentiating element in specialty retail is the interaction with the staff.

For this reason, all elements of the specialty store need to be holistic to build successful customer engagement with the staff and products.

In my most recent work, I've focused on reducing the complexity and expectations of the staff around customer engagement and more on consistency and critical elements that lead to better outcomes.

Outcome. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I love the line, "The only thing my bank takes is money." The customer purchase is the number one outcome of a successful in-store experience.

Of course, there are more outcomes than the most important one: sales. For the customer, it means they leave the store happier than when they came in. Something that should always be an employee's goal.

The other day, I posted a saying/sign in my Retail Leadership & Performance Accelerator Facebook group that read:

If what we sell brings customers happiness, shouldn't we be trying to help them buy even more? Let's make people really happy today! (Join the group here)

Another vital outcome beyond sales and a happy customer is the customer's contact information. Like website SEO, which keeps a website at the top of the search results, contact information enables retailers to keep the customer engaged and coming back.

By rethinking your store's SEO—Speed, Engagement, Outcome—you will enhance the shopping experience, build a loyal customer base ready to return repeatedly and increase revenue and profits.

So, let me ask three questions:

  1.  Do you think snails have a concept of speed, or is everything just a slow-motion thrill ride? (This reminds me of an employee the rest of the team named him Snail. He was not a thrill ride!)
  2. If your store's engagement were a meal, would your customers feel like they had a feast or a snack, or would they leave hungry?
  3. How is your in-store experience SEO? What's the one thing you can improve today?

Reach out if you’d like to discuss how I can elevate your retail SEO and results.