Did it prove to be a difficult year for retailers individually? No doubt. In the last year, we saw many businesses close their doors. The overall trend is positive for brick-and-mortar retail. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, total retail sales increased by 6.9% in 2020 compared to 2019. ( via The Balance). 2020’s final take: $1.47 trillion.
Even with the impressive statistics, brick-and-mortar stores must make changes if they are to keep their momentum. This is especially true due to e-commerce’s growing market share.
Brick-and-mortar retail continues to have a great customer experience.
Paul Greenberg, the founder of NORA network, discusses the importance of creating the best customer experience. He says, “The in-store experience will remain deeply engaging, making that transformation from a transactional environment into an experiential and entertaining experience.”
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We’ve seen a number of prominent trends in brick-and mortar retail, which reinforces the importance to create memorable in-location experiences. The State and Future of Consumer Behavior 2021 report showed that 90% of customers will return to your store after a positive experience. It’s also true that the reverse is true.
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Your organization should be embracing the trends shaping retail today, from personalized customer journeys to offering unique in-store promos to personalizing your brand’s social media presence.
- 0.1 Maximizing both Online and Offline Customer Channels
- 0.2 Make Your Organization a Socially Smart One
- 0.3 Real-Time Promotions in Your Stores
- 0.4 Provide Digital Resources to Enhance Customers’ Knowledge about Your Products and Services
- 0.5 Hyperpersonalization in the Customer Journey
- 0.6 Tips to Prepare for the Future of Brick-and-Mortar
- 1 Online appointments are the future of retail experiences
Maximizing both Online and Offline Customer Channels
Apps and online storesfronts allow brick-and-mortar businesses to compete with e-retailers in convenience.
Companies like Starbucks have used online channels — an application specifically — to cut down on wait times and improve customer experience. Customers are more likely to return Starbucks stores due to this ease of experience.
Apps and online channels are:
- Ensure convenience
- Provide data to personalize your customer journey
- Promote loyalty programs and other brand features.
- Add additional channels to increase sales and create memorable customer experiences
Omnichannel retail is a great way to benefit both your customers and your company.
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Make Your Organization a Socially Smart One
Shoppers will purchase directly from brands they have interacted with via social media. Title=”Opens in new window”> According to UPS, 34% of shoppers base their purchasing decisions on the influence of social media.
You can encourage your customers to share their experiences with you by providing touch points in-store.
- Increase your brand’s online visibility
- Become (or stay) socially relevant
- Allow your customers to advertise for and with you
- You can also find another route to purchase.
- Encourage customers to share their experiences in-store on social media.
Digital signage can be used to display your social media channels in-store. Your online presence can also be used to direct customers to your store for unique experiences.
Real-Time Promotions in Your Stores
Nearly one third (32.7%) of respondents said that price was the main determinant of their shopping habits. This factor was ahead of convenience and product availability as the main determinant in their shopping habits.
Customers will shop in your stores if they believe they can get exclusive discounts. In-store discounts in real time are a great way to build brand loyalty and increase revenue from repeat customers.
Provide Digital Resources to Enhance Customers’ Knowledge about Your Products and Services
Deloitte (p.4) describes how customers use digital tools such as price comparison websites and social media to make informed purchasing decisions.
You can manage the story that your customer hears and reads with digital resources in-store. To show your customers that you are the best value, compare their pricing with other competitors.
It is possible to provide detailed information about products so customers don’t feel the need for searching elsewhere.
Digital in-store resources empower customers and keep their attention on your products. You know that losing customers’ attention is the first step towards losing their business.
Hyperpersonalization in the Customer Journey
Deloitte (p.5) explains that personalization is key to creating new retail experiences. These are the experiences customers want.
Leading retailers have seen huge returns on their investments in intelligent software and artificial Intelligence (AI). Sephora uses AI to find the perfect shade for customers, while The North Face uses cognitive computing technology in order to match shoppers with the right jacket.
These are only two of the many innovative ways brick-and-mortar stores are improving the customer experience through technology-driven personalization.
Other forms of personalization worth looking into are loyalty programs, purchase recommendations and customer-exclusive discount.
Tips to Prepare for the Future of Brick-and-Mortar
Retail is in good shape overall, but there is a growing gap between the industry leaders and those who are just hanging on.
These tips can help you achieve your goals, whether your goal is to increase your market-pacing or extend your lead over your competition.
1. Maximize customer buying paths
Nearly half (46.7%) of our customers reported that they purchased replacements online for items they had bought in-store during the pandemic.
Customers began to look for alternative purchasing options because of safety concerns. Many customers loved what they found. It turns out that there are perks to buying items via an app and then picking them up in-store, curbside or at home.
Customers will be less likely to shop at your store if they have multiple options.
2. Make your stores digital.
Digital stores are the future for retail. Digital signage is versatile and cost-effective technology that:
- Customers can receive in-depth product descriptions
- Social sharing and sales can be made easier
- You can offer real-time discounts using QR codes or exclusive promo codes
- You can direct customers to certain areas in your store;
- can be used as self-checkout kiosks
- You get many additional benefits.
Every customer benefits from digitally-digitized stores. Digital signage can be a great asset for anyone, from a social media influencer to someone who just wants to get into and out of your store quickly.
3. Personalize, personalize, personalize.
It is a great way to increase customer loyalty. Personalizing the customer experience means remembering their buying habits and offering discounts based on how often they shop.
McKinsey argues that there is no substitute for data-driven, tech assisted personalization of customer experiences. This should be considered by managers of in-location experiences when developing their organizational investment strategy.
Online appointments are the future of retail experiences
The pandemic has affected nearly every industry. We now have a year to look back on the past and make changes that might have made a difference. E-commerce boomed in the aftermath of the pandemic, thanks to state-mandated shutdowns and social distancing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, online sales rose 32 percent in 2020 over 2019. Census Bureau.
A shift occurred in the way that retailers adapt to new operations. Boutiques such as Warby Parker started offering one-on-1 shopping experiences and styling sessions in order to limit store capacity and reduce contact points. Warby Parker stores are open by appointment only. Customers can schedule their shopping sessions online. The customers simply went to Warby Parker’s website and found their nearest store. They then booked the one that works. The in-person and online shopping experience converged in an amazing way.
Many other companies have also adopted online appointments to solve the problem. Smart retailers recognize that sustainable retail is not about selling products. The consumer wants a pleasant shopping experience. This doesn’t mean crowded stores or waiting in line outside. Online appointments allow retailers to engage with their customers through convenience and provide the safety that we need in this post-pandemic world.
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Online scheduling software allows shoppers to book appointments from anywhere, anytime, using their smartphones, tablets, or computers. Online scheduling is a time-saver for retailers and increases your visibility of available appointments. It also keeps you open even when your store closes. These technologies also offer critical customer-facing tech such as automated appointment confirmations and reminders, as well as integration with social media. These features extend the reach of retailers’ ability to “own customer experience from beginning to end.” This includes the instant that consumers see your Instagram post and decide to book an appointment. The automated reminders and confirmations they receive the day before are crucial to customer loyalty and building a sustainable retail business.
Online scheduling is a must for retailers that are trying to reopen and adjust to the post-pandemic environment. If you aren’t convinced, there are three ways that online scheduling can increase efficiency in your business.
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- Schedule employees effectively. Retailers can use self-service scheduling to give customers visibility into their arrival times and the assistance they require. With this data, retailers can correctly size staff.
- Customize your service. Retailers have the option to make online appointments and ask about the nature of their upcoming visit. This information will help staff to prepare for customers’ needs. It’s personal service. This level of care and attention can make customers feel valued. They can also reduce the time spent in-store and speed up the sales cycle, which allows customers to have more appointments while still respecting their time.
- Gain a better understanding of your business. Online scheduling software gives retailers access to a lot of information about the current state of their business. You can easily run reports on date ranges, individual staff members, and the popularity and sales cycles associated with each SKU. What are you selling? What are you selling? Do you see patterns in traffic that should be capitalized on but are not?
Many consumers will accept any return to normalcy, and they will immediately resume in-person shopping. Others will be more cautious and have new priorities and preferences. Although appointment-based shopping was initially developed as a way to combat the pandemic, its simplicity, personalization potential, and convenience should make it a priority for smart sellers. Online scheduling brings the convenience of online shopping to the familiarity and comfort of in-person experiences. It also helps build brand awareness. This is not a new trend in commerce, but it has been a long-standing pattern. This enhancement should be added to the customer service toolbox of retailers who have not already. You will be able to increase efficiency in your retail operations and offer more flexibility to your customers.