We’ve all seen the stories. Stores are closing. Is it because retailers have too many locations? Has e-commerce taken away foot traffic? Is it a societal shift in how much digital is a part of our life? We feel it’s a combination of all three. And while brick-and-mortar isn’t dead, the struggles will continue unless retailers find ways to seamlessly blend the digital and physical retail experience. Here’s what we recommend:
Don’t idle. Innovate.
In a recent Think with Google article, Matt Lawson, director of marketing and performance ads, cites an industry stat that store traffic has decreased 60 percent in the last few years, but when people do go to the store, they’re spending more—20 percent more.
As shoppers navigate the five zones of retail we’ve identified, their purchase decision can be influenced in many ways. Use the “Experience Zone” (Zone 3) for digital sales tactics—demo videos and virtual experiences—to sell your products. In Zone 4, you could use a beacon or short-code offer to deliver a deal to entice a purchase. Remember, when the foot traffic does come in these days, they are ready to spend.
In some instances, retailers reinvented their approach and turned stores into central hubs for shoppers. In his article, Lawson cites Home Depot’s 2016 statistics, which showed that mobile accounted for over 50 percent of their online traffic and that 42 percent of online orders were being picked up in-store. While being a distribution center for these orders, there are opportunities to engage these consumers via beacons, short codes, and targeted offers via the store’s app.
Focus on making a connection
Technology today is part of human nature. And consumers today arrive at retail stores better informed than ever before. Once they’re in the store, it’s your job to reassure them that your brand and product are the right choice.
You can connect through offers and interactive experiences, as we mentioned above, but you can also lean on the human element—what we call Zone 5—to help educate and drive purchases. Apps and websites can’t match the human experience (take that, artificial intelligence!). We still want human interaction and validation, which is why we all scour reviews and people’s recommendations on products. With knowledgeable sales people present to ensure customer satisfaction (i.e., Apple Genius, Best Buy “Blue Shirt”), you can turn “maybe” into “yes.”
Online-only retailers have taken note and are trying to create connections that go beyond digital. Brands that were exclusively online, such as Warby Parker and Amazon, are creating physical locations so people can feel that sense of community, have that physical brand hub, and enjoy the shopping experience with other people.
It sounds simple, but with so many means of distraction, creating a memorable experience, product, and brand is what keeps people coming back. Most people want to feel and experience something special when they visit a store. Coffee bar in a bookstore? Of course. Free in-store Wi-Fi? Yes, please. Interactive displays and virtual fitting rooms? Cool! Integrate comfort, convenience, and lots of tech (i.e., interactive displays, virtual fitting rooms, beacons, shopper apps, e-commerce kiosks in-store) to create a memorable experience.
So, what have we learned?
It’s clear that people have changed and how they shop has changed even more. Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be. With that in mind, every single brand interaction matters. Why? Consumers have greater expectations. They want more from a brand experience, one they expect to be the same whether they’re online or offline.
As technology continues to grow and as consumers evolve, the way you interact with them must grow and evolve as well. Retailers are fighting to stay relevant by staying one step ahead, incorporating mobile payments and emerging tech like VR and AR, and offering social opportunities like selfie stations and check-ins. It’s all about finding ways to add to the full brand experience, not just the in-store transaction.