Was it a rough year for many individual retailers? No doubt. We saw too many organizations close their doors in the past year-plus. However, as a whole, brick-and-mortar retail is booming. Total retail sales rose by 6.9 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, per the U.S. Department of Commerce (via The Balance). The final take in 2020: $1.47 trillion.
Despite the impressive metrics, changes must continue to take place if brick-and-mortar retailers are going to maintain momentum. This is particularly true because of e-commerce’s increasing market share.
Customer experience continues to be the great advantage of brick-and-mortar retail.
Paul Greenberg, founder of NORA Network, explains the importance of creating the most memorable customer experience possible: “The in-store experience will continue to be deeply engaging, making that transition from a transactional environment to an experiential and entertaining experience.”
The prominent trends that we’ve seen in brick-and-mortar retail reinforce the importance of creating memorable in-location experiences. Our State of Consumer Behavior 2021 report found that 90 percent of consumers will return to your store if they have a positive experience. The inverse is also true.
From providing unique in-store promotions to personalizing the customer journey and making your brand socially relevant, your organization should embrace trends that are shaping the retail experience right now.
Maximizing Both Online and Offline Customer Channels
Apps and online storefronts are allowing brick-and-mortar retailers to remain competitive with e-retailers when it comes to convenience.
Organizations likes Starbucks have leveraged online channels — an app specifically — to reduce customer wait times and enhance the convenience of the customer journey. This ease of experience means that customers are more likely to return to Starbucks’ stores.
Apps and online channels can:
- enhance convenience;
- provide data for you to further personalize the customer journey;
- promote your loyalty programs and other brand features; and
- add additional channels to drive sales and provide memorable customer experiences.
Effective omnichannel retail benefits both the customer and your organization.
Making Your Organization a Socially Savvy One
Shoppers will buy directly from brands that they interact with through social media. According to UPS, 34 percent of shoppers make purchasing decisions based on social media’s influence.
By providing in-store touchpoints for your customers to share their experiences socially, you:
- increase your brand’s online presence;
- become (or remain) socially relevant;
- allow your customers to advertise for you;
- establish another path to purchase; and
- encourage customers to share their in-store experiences on social platforms.
You can feature your social channels in-store through digital signage. Meanwhile, your online social presence can funnel customers into your stores for unique in-location experiences.
Intertwining your social channels with each of your online and offline channels can enhance your revenues and brand relevance.
Presenting Real-Time Promotions in Your Stores
Nearly one-third (32.7 percent) of respondents told us that price is the primary determinant of where (and how) they shop. This was the leading factor in their shopping habits, ahead of convenience and even product availability.
If customers believe they’ll unlock exclusive discounts when they shop at your stores, they’ll do so. Real-time, in-store discounts are a potential driver of brand loyalty and the revenues that come from repeat customers.
Providing Digital Resources to Enrich Customers’ Knowledge of Your Products and Services
Deloitte (p.4) explains how customers are using digital tools like price comparison sites and social media to make informed buying decisions.
With in-store digital resources, you can control the narrative that the customer hears or reads. You can present them with competitors’ pricing to show that you offer the best value.
You may provide in-depth detail about specific products so that the customer doesn’t feel the need to search elsewhere — potentially encountering competitors’ messaging along the way.
With digital in-store resources, you empower customers while keeping their attention on your products. As you know, losing a consumer’s attention is generally the first falling domino towards losing their business.
Hyperpersonalization of the Customer Journey
Deloitte (p.5) notes that personalization is essential to creating novel retail experiences. These novel experiences are what customers crave.
Investment in intelligent software and artificial intelligence (AI) has paid huge dividends for leading retailers. Sephora is using AI to help customers find the perfect makeup shade, while The North Face uses cognitive computing technology to match shoppers with their ideal jacket.
These are just two of the innovative ways that brick-and-mortar retailers are enhancing the customer journey through technology-driven personalization.
Loyalty programs, purchase recommendations, and customer-exclusive discounts are other forms of personalization worth considering.
Tips to Prepare for the Future of Brick-and-Mortar
Retail is in great shape overall, but the gulf is widening between industry leaders and organizations that are just hanging in there.
Whether your goal is to stretch your lead on the competition or ascend into the market-pacing strata, the following tips will help.
1. Maximize customers’ buying paths.
Nearly half (48.7 percent) of customers told us that they replaced items they once bought in-store with online alternatives during the pandemic.
As safety concerns led customers to embrace alternate purchasing channels, many liked what they discovered. Buying items in an app and picking them up in-store or curbside, it turns out, has its perks.
By providing customers every possible channel to buy from your stores, you reduce the reasons for those customers to consider your competitors.
2. Make your stores digital.
Digitized stores are the future of retail. Digital signage is a versatile, cost-effective technology which:
- can provide customers in-depth product explanations;
- can facilitate social sharing and corresponding sales;
- can provide real-time discounts through QR codes and exclusive promo codes;
- can direct customers to specific areas of your stores;
- can serve as self-checkout kiosks; and
- provides a number of additional benefits.
Digitized stores present a benefit for every customer. From a social media influencer to someone who wants to get in and out of your store as quickly as possible, digital signage is a potential asset.
3. Personalize, personalize, personalize.
Making the customer feel recognized as an individual is an unparalleled way to enhance brand loyalty. Remembering their buying habits, providing discounts based on their purchasing frequency, and simply providing stellar customer service are all ways to personalize the customer experience.
As McKinsey points out, there’s no rival to data-driven, tech-assisted personalization of the customer experience. Managers of in-location experiences should consider this when forming their organizational investment strategy.
Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant, a digital signage provider that helps businesses turn their TVs into interactive signs that drive sales, improve the in-location experience, and reinforce brand messaging.
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