How to Bring Consumers Back to Brick-and-Mortar Shopping
The online shopping industry is growing in leaps and bounds. Growth in the e-commerce sector is far outpacing growth in traditional retail. In 2013, the e-commerce industry expanded by 15 percent, making it a $186 billion business.
However, brick-and-mortar retailers still have the opportunity to wow consumers and bring them back to stores. Although online shopping is convenient and comfortable, it has downsides. Some of the main complaints that online shoppers have are shipping costs, slow delivery times and being unable to examine items in person.
Additionally, as our country becomes more environmentally aware, consumers are becoming much more concerned with shopping locally and saving energy costs. After all, why pay to have something shipped from Canada when you can buy it at a neighborhood boutique and support your own community?
However, if retailers want to stay relevant in this ever-changing industry, they need to make sure that their retail locations are as streamlined and modern as possible. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Utilize virtual store research: Virtual store research allows retailers and manufacturers to test the effectiveness of advertising, POP displays, and aisle and product placement before implementing in-store. Web-based software is available that allows businesses to quickly and accurately design new in-store concepts and test-drive them with online shoppers. Virtual store research helps ensure store concepts are optimal for securing in-store sales.
- Instant marketing: Companies including Prism Skylabs and Euclid are using cloud service and Wi-Fi signals to track and engage shoppers, who are either in-store or in the vicinity of a store. Euclid's technology allows retailers to provide exclusive offers and discounts directly to shoppers via mobile devices. Shoppers considering a purchase or simply in the area are incentivized to either enter the store or finalize a purchase.
- Engage customers: Beyond technology, it's important to connect with customers. Stores can hold events hosted by bloggers or sponsored by a local restaurant to draw customers into the store. Retailers can then share new products, seasonal events and update customers on their latest happenings.
- Find ways to create a memorable shopping experience: With a majority of retailers selling most of the same national brands, or very similar products, it's important to do things in-store to make the shopping experience more interesting and memorable. Whether that means arranging the merchandise in different ways than your competition, adding regional or private-label products to offer variety, or finding complimentary services that differentiate you from your competition, it's critical to stand out from the crowd if you hope to drive greater traffic in-store.
- Experiment: Test ideas to make shopping at your store a better experience. Experiment with trying one new idea each week or month to see if your customers notice and are positively impacted. Put out a suggestion box or offer a coupon for filling out a quick survey to find out where your customers would most like to see improvement.
Lastly, make sure that your in-store atmosphere is as friendly and welcoming as possible. Online stores can't offer the same humanity and warmth that brick-and-mortar stores can. In-person connection is one of the main things that will drive people to retail locations in the future. Make sure that your staff is both pleasant and well-versed in your product offerings, and take your customer service to the next level each and every time. If you do, you'll certainly have people coming back for more!
Rich Scamehorn is the co-founder of technology and market research firm InContext Solutions, and has served as the company's chief research officer since its inception.