The Resurgence of Retail Stores: 4 Ways Retailers Can Come Back With Staying Power
The recently revised National Retail Federation (NRF) forecast for even higher retail growth in 2021 makes one thing very clear to me: the resurgence of the brick-and-mortar store is definitely upon us. And as such, it’s important that retailers in every category ensure their omnichannel experiences are in excellent working order.
As shoppers embark on a post-lockdown spending surge, they will have very little tolerance for mistakes and missteps that occur as they cross channels, devices and locations. It’s critical to streamline every step in the shopper journey, including the last mile, and every store must be prepared to play a significant role in the fulfillment of online orders.
The good news is that many retailers are working on improving their experiences: more than half of retail professionals surveyed say the pandemic has accelerated new technology-related product launches at their companies. And I suspect a large percentage of these technology investments are focused on improving their omnichannel presence, including experiences inside the store.
For those looking to leverage technology to enhance the role of the store in today's shopping journey, I believe there are four things that retailers should prioritize in support of the store’s resurgence:
- Begin the migration to in-season planning immediately, if not sooner. Store assortments and inventory positions have to be far more agile than they were 18 months ago. By transitioning to an in-season planning model, retailers can mitigate the challenges posed by pre-season planning, including simply buying too far in advance, being unable to react quickly to shifts in market and customer behaviors, and having limited visibility into what inventory demand will look like once the season begins.
- Strive to achieve store fulfillment excellence. Now is the time to evaluate every store fulfillment service and ensure that it's operating at peak efficiency, supported by optimized processes and highly accurate inventory visibility in order to deliver on (heightened) consumer expectations for the long-awaited return to shopping in stores.
- Evaluate and update pricing strategies. As inflation continues to spike, thoughtful price and promotion strategies can drive increased store traffic and provide competitive differentiation. Additionally, promotions can encourage cross-channel behaviors that often lead to increased basket sizes.
- Continue to invest in store experiences, and while speed to market is certainly still important, don’t be afraid to test and iterate new experiences. Pilot programs and even pop-up shops can help retailers understand what resonates with shoppers in each region of the country. Experiences that closely align with new customer expectations can remind people why shopping in-store offers different (and often better) experiences than are possible online.
I suspect the role of the store will continue to evolve as shoppers return, and those retailers that invest in tools that help them react and adapt will be well positioned to keep those shoppers coming back.