The biggest misconception around retail stores is that it will be witnessing a dramatic collapse any time. A growing belief amongst some of the established players in the industry is that physical stores have become a liability and will phase out in the coming years.
In turn, it is causing some of the smaller brands to deviate and downsize from the traditional setup to fully embrace the online way of selling goods. The “death of retail” triggered a panic episode in almost every sector, which ultimately caused a minor revenue tremor in such companies.
Not learning the full extent of the importance of physical outlets caused these premature decisions. So, where exactly is Brick & Mortar; some say it’s going through a period of flux with most questioning its future. Understandable when online Black Friday and Boxing day sales get such an incredible response.
Some predictions suggest, by 2021, approximately 75% of the retail sales in the US will be happening in-store. However, they will be highly transformed by technology to bring a more enjoyable shopping experience for customers.
As a result, putting additional pressure on big brands (Debenhams, Nordstrom, and Target) to reinvent and lower their prices to match the promotions from e-retailers; to avoid any reduction in foot traffic to their outlets. Even then, some brands have been consistent in opening more stores.
Now, was he dead wrong? Physical stores still offer a sense of being that digital transactions cannot ever compete with. Especially in territories where the digital divide is too sharp, and the consumers end up relying on local physical stores to meet their requirements.
The physical outlets still bring the touch element that a lot of people crave and feel deprived of in the online world. They may be bringing AI and introducing other high-tech gear, but that does not beat the pleasure of feeling something in your hand.
Brick-and-mortar stores won’t go anywhere – they’ll continue to evolve, innovate & put their omnichannel efforts into opening a new world full of possibilities for the shoppers.
So, going ahead, what do these retail chains need do to make their presence felt, despite heavy competition from the brands on the internet. One of the things to focus on will be to give the customers a more unique, customized, digitized, and enthralling experience.
What is the road going ahead?
Brick and Mortar retail need not go anywhere; all you need to do is to find ways to interconnect them with their online counterpart & in the absence of this, create a site that compliments the physical store.
Both physical and online selling must go hand in hand to take your brand forward, as both are part of the same ecosystem that sells and treats your customers with what they need.
Let’s look at how retail can create innovative interactions for its strong customer base:
- Shipping – "Immediate gain" is a key factor for customers; not having to wait on length for their orders and easily getting to pick up the same will draw them towards your brand. Why do you think rapid delivery is gaining prominence in the eCommerce world?
The idea of acquiring something ASAP still tempts people into buying from stores. Most people step of their houses for some chore or another; work, exercise, college, etc. so on the way, we can imagine them getting into a store & instantly grabbing the item needed. Voila, shopping is done.
The use of Supply chain analytics will help to identify operational holdups in logistics & transportation of products; besides enabling data-driven decisions at a strategic, tactical & operational level.
- Beyond Real Estate – Simple hoarding products on a rack in a store will lead to disappointing results. Customers don't wish to step inside a cold, bland, unhygienic, and dark room full of cardboard boxes, that looks more like a warehouse than an environment where you could shop.
Think beyond the generic ways of selling and offer spaces that transmit a pleasant aura and not an archaic feeling that creates a sense of repulsion. Build an ambiance that invites your audience.
- Omnichannel – A business model, that lets customers complete their purchase from anywhere. Knowing this, they won't be tied to a single device, getting to browse, add, and then complete orders from anywhere bring the flexibility that will be the biggest advantage for them.
Build multiple touchpoints to connect with customers everywhere and supplement this with other digital touchpoints like kiosks, self-serve tablets, and smart shelf to improve customer experience. The changing buyer behavior is forcing brands to look at multiple options to network with them.
Omnichannel allows you to empower your customers with Click and Collect, a form of service that relies on placing orders online. Shoppers turn up at retail stores to pick up their online orders.
- Prime products – Let's be honest there are some products your consumers rather buy offline than online. Medicines, exclusive meals, in-house experiences, entertainment, and so on.
In case you are dealing in any of these, you don't need to panic yet, but the slow shift towards digital is happening, nevertheless.
Cinema, despite being accessible through multiple service providers (Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc.) is still enjoyed in theatres. The digital penetration did affect the footfall, but the ambiance offered in movie theatres can't be created in homes. Thanks to IMAX, 3D & 4DXIMAX and so on.
- Presentation – Magic mirrors, ramp walks, exhibitions, live contests, and other demos. Do as much as possible to enthrall the in-store audience, even so much as bringing in experts that offer advice on various aspects of the product in question.
Making such radical changes in your store can grant the customer a rich experience for a reasonable amount of time, which will make them reconsider your store for future purchases — one way to win and retain customers.
- Discounts – Fall back on the traditional ways to tempt them into your stores. Discounts are one such aspect that gets people excited. If your rate of deductions exceeds that of the brand online, then the consumer would be more likely to put you as their first choice.
- Use of AI – If your store endures countless hours of procurement, then this can be easily simplified with the use of AI. AI can automate the cataloging of vast quantities of items, helping you to focus your workforce in areas that lead to more profitable results for the firm.
- Workers – Hiring & retaining employees in retail can be a tough task, even more, when the workers are complacent & incapable of closing sales. You want to invest in salespeople that are more pro-active towards shoppers. Let's be honest, the last thing you want to give is lazy customer service.
Half of the people who walk into a store are mindless and aren't aiming for anything. It takes hard work & methodical retail sales ability of the worker to engage a stranger and make the sale. Invest in training programs to teach your store workers to interact better with the stream of visitors.
People who drop in are not looking for the mobile experience; they wish to be guided & persuaded. Every next person is an opportunity to upsell or, and it all depends on your workers. The right kind of staff that are motivated to provide the best in-store customer experience.
- Samples – So a new product was just launched, what can a store do? Allow the brand to showcase and give away samples of the same. The likeness may tempt them to buy the same then and there itself. The idea is to hold as many exclusive in-store promotions as possible.
One of the best seats for your audience to try something before investing in it. Cologne, food, paint, cosmetics, and so much more. Give a platform to let the top brands exhibit their latest creations.
In the end, the idea is to thrive by strategically reading, responding, and adapting to the digital forces by creating a better retail experience for customers. Physical retail is not dead; what's dead is boring retail. Get out of primitive retail and start introducing fancy techniques for attracting customers.
The buyer journey will be considerably different within the next five years. Omnichannel has granted them the power to shop anywhere. The convenience of being on every touchpoint lets the user pick and choose the device they wish to use.
It's time you see yourself as the needle mover in your industry. Don't stick to the age-old methods of selling goods in brick and mortar shops. Your shop needs to be more than just an aisle full of towering racks that stock goods from top to bottom.
Brick and mortar stores may be on a decline but won't vanish from the sales scene any time soon. You may even see many manufacturers unify their offline and online stores. As per a Google study, 75% of consumers will visit a store if they come across retail information on the web.
Omnichannel retail will help to increase revenue, as the traffic to your online store will also be keen to drop in on the physical outlet. An order reserved online can be picked up at the brand's nearest store. Thus, making the sales journey more pleasant for the buyer.
Many eCommerce pundits can claim otherwise, but the eCommerce road ahead sees both the physical & online stores go hand in hand. Physical retail is not dead; it's just going through a lull that sees it adapt better to the eCommerce stores that are popping up.
If your brand has a terrific physical store and wants to branch out into the online territory or if your physical outlet is unable to pull customers to meet the sales target and wishes it had a website. Then, it's time for an expert consultation with our eCommerce team who will carve the road ahead for your brand.
Fulfill your potential, and touch the pinnacle of your sector, eliminate everything that prevents your store from taking off. Omnichannel is the future for all industries, the offline stores may not be going away, but a one-dimensional over-reliance on them could see your company going Kaput.
Virtina can help you to increase your revenue, improve profit and enhance customer experience.