“Showrooming”, a phenomenon when a shopper visits a store to check out a product but then purchases it online has often been blamed for the demise of brick and mortar stores. After all, with a smartphone in her handbag, the consumer has the world at her fingertips. She can access product pricing instantaneously and compare them for the best deal faster than any store assistant. She can have payment secured in a few clicks, and loyalty dollars and points accrued for repeat business. She can tap into her network of friends and their friends via a range of social media channels for recommendations, and inspiration.
So as retailers kick and fight, gasping their supposed last breaths, is it all doom and gloom?
In this article, we’d like to argue that no, not all is lost. In fact, if the likes of Amazon opening physical retail stores, and “webrooming”, a phenomenon where consumers research products online before going into the store for a final evaluation and purchase becoming increasingly popular, it seems there is still life left in the retail business.
So, if you’re a retailer, fighting the good fight, here is a list of 5 things you can consider, as you evolve your retail strategy to better serve your customers, wherever he or she may be.
1. Know your customer, watch, listen, observe closely – then be where they shop at
Like it or not, the retail environment will continue to evolve, as new shopping channels and trends emerge. Today’s shoppers move seamlessly along their shopping journeys, across whichever channels are most convenient. So, first things first. Know your customer and how your product is woven into their everyday lives. Online, in-store, via a mobile app, social, wherever the customer journeys may be, establish a presence in these channels to serve them. Build a profile of who your customer is and then set out to create an experience that fulfils those needs.
2. Go small, get personal
Big stores that try to be something for everyone, often end up being nothing for anyone. Customers know when retailers are not interested enough in them. They know it in the way you design your store, the way your sales assistants interact or don’t interact with them, and what happens when they leave. According to a report from Accenture, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognises them by name, recommends options based on past purchases or knows their preferences.
So, if you are a retailer, and haven’t done this, get interested in your customers. Be focused in amassing a database of them and invest in the time and effort to know who they are, how they shop with you, their preferences, birthdays, special occasions. Then, stay in close contact with them via email blasts, FB and Instagram posts and even text messages, always being helpful, offering tips, interesting content, offers, promotions that are catered to them.
Use data to get personal. The internet has led customers to expect a hyper-personalised shopping experience that is competitive with e-tailers the likes of Amazon and Taobao. Hence, retailers who learn to embrace CRM and other tools to integrate data accumulated from customers’ smartphones, tablets, point-of-sale systems, inventory and contact centres to create a personalized customer experience have much to gain.
Truth be told, physical stores have a significant advantage over their online counterparts. The real live customer is right there, in-store and at the point of sale. With the right data, offers can be sent to mobile phones or using in-store digital signage. When it comes down to it, personalisation comes back to improving the customer experience. It’s also a way for stores to differentiate their service, reward loyal customers and build a more sustainable business.
3. Go the extra mile with customer service
A Kissmetrics blog titled The Fastest Way to Lose Customers found that “71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service,” and that once these customers are lost, the average cost to replace each consumer is $243.
So, look at customer service at the retail store level to really create a differentiated shopping experience for your customers. Ensure your staff are well trained and knowledgeable about not just your products, but also how they stack up against the competition. Arm your retail assistants with mobile apps to help them check stock availability, sizes without disappearing into storerooms for hours. Enable them to access detail product information, look up demonstration videos and product reviews, and collect customer data to inform and personalize future purchases. Establish fuss free, customer friendly shipping, delivery, returns, exchange and/or try before you buy policies especially in-store.
It is worth noting, that technology alone is not the answer. Raising the customer service benchmark depends on integrating that technology seamlessly within the environment and training your staff so that they feel comfortable and confident operating within that “phygital” space.
By combining good customer service with a good engagement program, retailers can offer tailor-made, personalised experiences that keep customers coming back to their brand again and again.
4. Create a unique store experience
Unfortunately for many retailers, the one size fits all in-store design does not endear itself to most shoppers. Imagine instead, if a store could be designed to welcome, surprise, and delight the customer, making everything easy and making her feel special.
We’re not talking gimmicky features like magic mirrors or DJs spinning records in the middle of the showroom but retailers have the unique opportunity to provide the information their customers want in a way that is real, meaningful, useful that will draw them in. Imagine for example, walking into a retail home furnishing store where customers can learn something real about home design, or a jewellery shop and being able to customise a piece of jewellery and watch how it’s done. By thinking beyond just the product and catering to customers’ higher-level needs and lifestyles, dreams and aspirations, retailers can start to create store experiences that offer real value.
5. Keep customers engaged after a sale
Many retailers forget that a relationship with their customers does not end once they have made a purchase and leave your shop. In fact, retailers should be proactive in keeping customers engaged and lure shoppers back into the store with initiatives like embedding calendar reminders for upcoming sales, embark on regular email campaigns to communicate new product releases and offering discounts on purchase anniversaries etc,
Running small, social events at retail stores is another way in which to get real face time with customers. Williams-Sonoma gets customers back in their stores through their cooking demos featuring celebrity chefs whereas Saks Fifth Avenue holds invitation-only trunk shows, giving their best customers previews of what’s in fashion each season. When you plan an in-store event, don’t forget to invite local influencers, who can help take your message far and wide on social media in turn helping you gain more awareness for your products and future events.
In short, to compete and grow, retailers have to work harder than ever to reach, attract, and engage with shoppers both online and in the physical stores. If you think about it, success in the future of retail isn’t all that different to success in the past, it’s just that the advent of technology and disruptive trends have made the tools and integrations more complicated. It is a huge task no doubt, but you don’t have to go it alone. Come talk to us.