How Retailers Must Adapt to the Digital Era of Brick-and-Mortar
A funny thing happened on the way to digital shopping domination: The in-store shopping experience didn’t die.
Growth in the retail sector is still largely being driven by e-commerce, but analysts have found that there are certain qualities inherent to the in-store shopping experience that many consumers are unwilling to completely abandon.
Indeed, digital technology is now being put to use in brick-and-mortar stores to create a more seamless experience for customers and improve a company’s ability to effectively market to them. In the beauty industry, for example, brands such as Sephora and Benefit Cosmetics have discovered how strategically merging digital innovations with the traditional shopping experience can pay dividends.
Not all technology-driven innovations are created equal, however. The best digital strategies capitalize on the inherent advantages of brick-and-mortar stores, such as an active interest on the part of the shopper and a tactile sensory experience.
By adapting traditional marketing best practices such as strategic storytelling, customer engagement and data analysis, you can create a unique omnichannel marketing presence in order to remain competitive in the new retail environment.
Start With a Cohesive Story
Innovation for innovation’s sake may result in the deployment of flashy technology, but an omnichannel marketing strategy that doesn’t tell a logical story isn’t likely to show increased return on investment no matter how incredible the technology is.
Digital innovation efforts from Sephora provide some insight into this principle. The beauty retailer created the Sephora Innovation Lab to test ideas for enhancing the in-store experience. One result was a revamped store built around the concepts of teaching, inspiring and playing. These concepts formed the core values that led to innovations such as Sephora's Beauty Workshop, Color IQ service and new group classes.
Keep a Tight Focus On the Customer
Successful integration of technological solutions should always serve the interests of the customer first. Mobile apps provide an opt-in opportunity for customers to receive notifications from a company — i.e., they have to view any discount deals or other forms of marketing communication for at least a second in order to dismiss them.
Take advantage of their interest by offering loyal customers extra discounts through a mobile app when they reach a certain location in the store, or present them with educational, behind-the-scenes content that will illuminate certain attributes of the products they're viewing in-store.
Make Use of Data Analytics
E-commerce has always had an edge over brick-and-mortar retail in terms of its data availability. Physical retail stores will need to become more adept at gathering and using data to create personalized marketing experiences that engage customers at the proper point in their buying funnel.
Benefit Cosmetics has put its data to use by intertwining the online and in-store experiences. Customers can book Brow Bar appointments online, and Benefit's website is filled with options for interaction and personalization. The retailer has also updated its sales tactics for the modern world — Benefit Cosmetics vending machines are strewn throughout airports worldwide, targeting women on the go with TSA-approved travel kits and its highest-rated beauty products.
A Future Where Everyone Benefits
Brands with a physical retail presence have a unique opportunity to harness digital technology to increase their marketing ROI while finding new ways to enrich the customer’s in-store experience.
The possibilities offered by mobile apps, digital displays and the proliferation of customer data represent a new era for the retail industry. The leaders who will emerge from the pack will find groundbreaking ways to use storytelling, customer engagement and the power of data to prove that the world isn’t ready to craft a eulogy for brick-and-mortar retail any time soon.
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.
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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.