Where 2017 Will Take Brick-and-Mortar Retail
Today, retail is almost unrecognizable from what it looked like 10 years ago. I know because I worked in that space. And as the pace at which technology accelerates, further changes to the retail landscape will inevitably pose new challenges for brick-and-mortar stores looking to compete with a strong e-commerce industry.
Despite the obstacles, however, physical retail has a great opportunity in 2017 to reclaim some ground from online stores.
Keeping it Trendy
Many of the trends affecting retail today present opportunities to boost customer engagement moving forward.
Personalization is key to the modern shopping experience. Online shops have been able to take advantage of customer information by leveraging users’ browsing activity, but brick-and-mortar locations aren’t left totally in the dust.
Concepts such as real-time customization and increased reliance on data can (and should) be adapted to physical locations using smartphone technology, merging online and in-person experiences into something that makes walking into a store a more comprehensive shopping experience.
Many retail locations, however, fail to leverage their advantages correctly and end up incorporating technology for the sake of having it. Technology integration must be meaningful if it is to be effective. Retailers looking at trends in the industry must ask themselves what their stories are, who their target customers are and how to tell those stories to elicit the desired response.
Often, that response is a purchase, but retailers also need to consider opportunities to boost customer loyalty and increase brand recognition. Here’s how to move forward:
1. Do your research. Physical locations can’t do much with browser histories, but now that everyone carries a smartphone and data is plentiful, other opportunities provide better return on investment. Companies can now partner with advertisers to target certain locations with promotions and sales. Whether by push notification, app download or targeted search results, retail locations have immense opportunities for expansion through customer location data.
2. Offer modern amenities. No one is going to visit a retail store for the free Wi-Fi alone, but having perks like this can incentivize customers to spend more time in-store. Retailers offering Wi-Fi have seen increased sales compared to those that do not, and having Wi-Fi-enabled stores allows customers to perform follow-up queries on their own if they’re interested in a product or brand. In addition, connected stores have more empowered employees who are better able to help customers find what they need.
3. Make the visit worthwhile. Smartphone users can do more than go online and find information that would be available anywhere. Retailers can and should offer location-based discounts to users who bring their smartphones into the store. Even something as simple as a small coupon for a percentage off a certain item or a free drink can go a long way toward improving the brick-and-mortar experience, spreading word-of-mouth and getting more customers in the door and making purchases.
4. Collect data. As customers come and go in-store, their smartphones are constantly transmitting data points. These data points are limited in their individual utility, but can be useful to retailers looking to identify trends in what customers are looking for (and which deals are the most appealing).
Retail isn’t dead — it’s evolving. As the line between e-commerce and physical shopping blurs, retailers must prepare themselves to tackle the challenges of tomorrow using all the strategies available to them via advancements in mobile technology and data collection.
Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell, a public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement.
Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City.
Mitchell is part of Dentsu Aegis Network, which is made up of nine global network brands and supported by its specialist/multimarket brands. Dentsu Aegis Network is Innovating the Way Brands Are Built for its clients through its best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital, and creative communications services. Offering a distinctive and innovative range of products and services, Dentsu Aegis Network is headquartered in London and operates in 145 countries worldwide with over 30,000 dedicated specialists.
Clark is one of the top strategic communications professionals in the country, with more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications and an exceptional track record in protecting corporate reputations and redefining perceptions in key areas of business.