How to Thrive in an Ever-Evolving Retail Landscape
The retail industry has undergone a dramatic transformation in the face of factors such as Amazon.com's dominance and an uncertain post-pandemic landscape. To stay successful, retailers have had to adapt their stores rapidly — from reworking layouts to setting up delivery or pickup areas — all while ensuring customer service is still at its highest level. Technology will be crucial for success moving forward; those that embrace it are sure to come out ahead!
Welcome to the modern-day store. Fluid, dynamic and responsive to customers' needs. Are you tailoring the journey to meet shoppers' unique needs? If not, here are some ideas for meeting today's shoppers where they are.
Face and Embrace Change
Greek philosopher Heraclitus coined the well-known phrase, "Change is the only constant in life." And don't retailers know it?
It's critical to seamlessly meet customers in their chosen channel. This enables customers to shop in-store, curbside, online or through a combination of channels, which is key. Don't forget to continue cleanliness and safety protocols — and communicate them. This helps ensure ongoing trust when shoppers come through your brick-and-mortar doors.
With the surge of multiple consumer touchpoints, you must understand which options work best for your shoppers and your brand. Using a "product testing" format can help you understand what works and what doesn't. It can provide insights into delivering a great customer experience (CX).
Consider Your Digital Approach
In 2020, many retailers scrambled to create/increase their digital presence. They introduced or enhanced brand apps, tried chatbots, and enabled customers to connect virtually 24/7.
The ever-changing dynamics of the pandemic made for more forgiving shoppers. The need for speed was understood — as we were all learning to cope together. Today, even the smallest glitches can erode your brand.
Today's online-to-in-store (omnichannel) interactions must seek to be harmonious. Understanding shopper preferences, dislikes and buying patterns, regardless of channel, is core to the equation. Implementing solutions that capture those needs can help build loyalty and increase shopper spending with your brand.
Signage, Store Design and Extras Matter
Even in the digital age, in-store signage and store design continue to play an elevated role in how shoppers interact with brands. Signage conveys a variety of things, from business hours to navigation, to hiring messages and health protocols.
Shoppers still want to know you're taking precautions and protecting them — especially as COVID is still evolving — but this no longer needs to be the lead message. Review your signage approach and determine where this messaging falls in the hierarchy. Look for ways to create brand-aligned callouts for this safety information. Make it a part of your day-to-day communications rather than an awkward add-on.
Store design can be leveraged for more than aesthetics; it allows retailers to create an unparalleled customer journey. Key elements such as well-guided store flow and displays provide customers with easy access to products that are in demand or even increase those demands. Ensuring impulse items are included at checkout and along the most-traveled paths can provide inspiration and increase purchases.
A focus on simplifying navigation to areas for specific interactions such as curbside, returns and in-store pickup can help shoppers feel better guided in their visit.
Consider making shoppers' visits even more experiential. Look to other channels for inspiration. Home improvement retailers often provide clinics on DIY projects, while craft stores include sessions on jewelry making and card crafting. What inspiration or activities can you provide to make your brick-and-mortar location(s) more inviting and engaging?
The bottom line is that retail is ever evolving. To meet customers where they are, you must shift to meet their needs and be ready for what's on the horizon.
Lise Wilson is vice president, retail strategy at Miller Zell, a branded environment solutions company.
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Lise Wilson is Vice President of Retail Strategy and Strategy & Account Director at Miller Zell, Inc., a leading full-service retail experience company.