Competing with Digital Giants: How Brick and Mortar Can Fight Back With Data

We’ve all been there. Pajamas too early (or late!) It is rare for shops to open and, even if they do, traffic and crowds can be annoying. It is much easier to shop online using the bright, warm blue light of your phone or computer. Price matching is as easy as switching between tabs on your browser. The product will likely arrive within two days or sooner.

This is the new retail reality that the digital world has created. This ecosystem is being shaped by online-only marketers and direct to consumer brands, who are tapping into the data-driven advantages it offers. Customers are told by them that they can provide whatever they want if they just click a few times.

How can brick-and mortar retailers compete in this new environment? How can brick-and-mortar retailers get more customers to their doors, and compete with the digital influx of competition?

A Unique Advantage

It takes maturing from multichannel thinking to omnichannel. New research by Cuebiq & Retail Ascendant shows that physical retailers can better leverage data and insights from the offline world to be more competitive against online leaders.

As an example, consider footfall. A survey of retail executives was conducted in June/July 2018. Footfall measurements had an impact on several business decisions including assortment and marketing (79%), media and marketing decisions (71%), and optimization across all channels (57%). However, the most common use cases were location intelligence for store-bystore metrics (29%) and shopper marketing (21%), respectively.

These results indicate that footfall is still a channel-specific measure that focuses on broad optimization of marketing, merchandising and other channels. It shouldn’t be. Data such as footfall measurement can help increase customer traffic, better understand customer behavior and allow retailers to better meet their customers’ needs.

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Growing from Traditional

Multifaceted retail customers are a reality. Marketing approaches must be multifaceted to reach these customers. This is something that many recognize, but still rely upon traditional methods of measuring engagement. Our research shows that retailers still use people counting (53%), loyalty programs and credit cards to assess in-store traffic. Location analytics (33%), in-store sensors (33%), and mobile devices (27%) were the other most popular methods.

Positive news is that retailers are starting to use new technology. Even though some retailers still use old-fashioned methods, they still consider footfall measurement a priority. It is actually a top three source for analytics for 38 percent, while 23 percent consider it to be increasing in importance.

Moving forward quickly

To compete with omnichannel leaders, building a digital foundation requires thinking differently. Investing in better offline analytics is the first step for retailers. Retailers have made data scientists and analysts their top priority. They can use these skills to evaluate offline patterns alongside online efforts. The company will be more successful if it can build models that understand the tradeoff and omnichannel impact.

Retailers should also look at the traffic patterns of their competitors. Location analytics can be used to analyze footfall patterns more precisely. This allows retailers to see where customers go even when they aren’t in-store. This competitive information helps to understand where consumers spend their time and money, and allows for targeted messaging to potential customers.

You can also use beacons in conjunction with location data to give retailers more depth of measurement and better ways to correlate visits. These technologies provide a wealth of data from mobile, web and other digital channels, which goes beyond what is possible with offline traffic measurement.

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Engaging in a New Era

Digital isn’t going away. Data will only grow in power and reach new heights for those who are able to use it. It’s crucial to establish standards for the future of insights.

Create internal performance metrics across channels and channels using cross-channelattribution. This can be used to motivate internal teams to increase cross-channel traffic to both online and offline properties when it is measured and incentivized. This can help ensure that the large fixed investment in physical retail is optimized and recognized for its contributions.

Reward customers for buying through multiple channels. It is important to recognize when loyal online shoppers visit the store and when traditional brick-and mortar customers buy online. This helps strengthen the relationship. These insights can be used to optimize marketing and merchandising costs and enable progressive messages and offers that are not conflicting with or impersonal.

Customers make decisions based upon perceived value. Ask why someone is at home in their pajamas adding items to their digital shopping cart. When the data gives you the answer, it is time to take action.

Things to Remember Bankruptcy Filing and Store Closures

Things Remembered is planning to file for bankruptcy protection. It will close most of its approximately 400 stores. This was according to people familiar with the matter. Things Remembered’s 2016 debt restructuring was not enough to protect it from the bankruptcies that are sweeping brick-and mortar retail. One source said that the company in Highland Heights, Ohio, employs approximately 2,500 people in the United States, and Canada. It hopes to sell its brand, and online business, during bankruptcy proceedings. This would help preserve hundreds of jobs. According to sources, Things Remembered is looking for buyers for its stores.

Total Retail’s View: January 2019 brought some disappointing news for brick-and mortar retailers. Signet Jewelers and Shopko have filed for bankruptcy or closed down stores in January, adding to the ongoing drama surrounding Sears’ future. Things Remembered’s debt burden is likely to be its undoing. The plan to sell the brand’s products through’s Marketplace was announced last September but it wasn’t enough to save Things Remembered.

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