3 Surefire Ways to Extend Your Customer's Shopping Experience When customers feel entertained, they stick around longer and spend time discovering more products and spending more cash.

By Troy Allen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Take the escalator to the second floor of the Nordstrom department store in downtown Chicago and you'll discover something so strange and seemingly out of place you'll want to give yourself a sobriety test.

Don't worry. You're not drunk. At least, not yet. You're at Habitant, a full-service bar in the middle of the men's clothing department. Situated between racks of overpriced gloves and designer socks, this luxurious cocktail lounge invites shoppers to belly up before they empty their wallets.

Welcome to the latest craze in retail, inspired by one of the most underrated KPIs in business: stay time. Stay time, also known as length of stay or average duration, refers to the amount of time a customer spends in a store or on an ecommerce site. For retailers, the importance of stay time can't be overstated: the longer people stay in your store, the more money they spend.

If you're not already obsessed with this money-making measurement, start obsessing. Right now. For the sake of your business and bottom line, here are three things you need to know about stay time.

Related: Customer Loyalty Is Your Holy Grail for Success. Here's How to Cultivate It.

1. What 'stay time' really means

When it comes to KPIs, traffic is terrific, and sales are sweet. But stay time can tell you much more about your business than you might think — for better and for worse.

It's a lesson I learned firsthand as CEO of the brand development firm Rise Brands. About 10 years ago, we started creating and launching retail-tainment and eater-tainment concepts, which now include vintage bar-cades, entertainment hubs and old-school eateries. As our brands grew and locations multiplied, we realized that stay time was (and still is) the No. 1 indicator of success or failure in hospitality.

And when we crunched the numbers, we discovered that customers who stick around not only spend more money but also tend to be more satisfied, brand-loyal and eager to share their experiences with others.

As retailers search for ways to extract more revenue, they should be looking for ways to keep their customers happy and captive. This is why Nordstrom put a cocktail lounge next to the neckties. And it explains why grocers place coffee shops and wine bars near their entrances. And it's why enterprising online retailers are doing everything they can to increase session duration.

2. A long line is a good thing

Whether your business relies on foot traffic, butts-in-seats or eyes-on-page, the longer customers visit, the more positive their overall experience.

Still, many retailers harbor the misperception that long waits result in negative customer experiences. Let me disprove that myth.

One of our most popular brand concepts is a 40,000-square-foot entertainment hub anchored by rows of duckpin bowling lanes. I'm often asked why we don't allow people to reserve lanes in advance, especially when wait times can run an hour or longer. Therein lies your answer. Waiting allows our customers to explore. Instead of sitting idly, our patrons play Skee-Ball, grab a drink at the bar and snap Instagram photos in front of a floor-to-ceiling mural of pop-culture icons from the '80s and '90s. Before they know it, the lane is free. And all the while, they've been having the time of their lives — waiting.

The point is, if you keep your customers entertained, they won't mind the wait. There's a good chance they'll keep coming back for more.

Related: 12 Golden Rules for Customer Experience Strategy

3. It's not just about food and drink

People used to go to department stores for clothes, bedding, maybe yard supplies and not much else. That sort of basic transactional experience isn't enough to keep shoppers interested anymore.

What's a retailer to do? Well, you could build a bar, café or restaurant in an otherwise static shopping space. But don't forget; humans do more than consume units of energy. They like expending energy, too.

Try giving them an experience that gets them moving. After all, when customers feel entertained, they stick around longer and spend that time discovering more products and spending more cash.

Think about the kinds of entertainment experiences that would best fit your space. Imagine, for example, a sporting-goods store with a Topgolf inside, offering customers a simulated round of golf and a stimulating beverage—all in the same place they can buy a new set of clubs. Or imagine a karaoke bar and stage where you buy your musical instruments.

Retailers can create an inviting atmosphere with attractive displays, pleasant music and comfortable seating. But that's table stakes. And, sure, they can partner with familiar food or beverage brands to keep shoppers stationary, too. But that's missing the point.

The future of retail is about more than shopping, sitting down and stuffing your face. To succeed in this competitive environment, businesses must pay more attention to what customers really want. And when leaders listen, they can improve stay time, sales and more.

Wavy Line
Troy Allen

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Rise Brands

Troy is the founder and CEO of Rise Brands. With a focused passion for branding, design and strategy, Troy excels at transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. He has extensive brand and creative development experience that can be seen across multiple industries.

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