For brick-and-mortar stores competing with e-commerce and the digital economy, increasing the value of the in-store experience is essential.
Surprisingly, after two years of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, people are more inclined to shop in stores because they want personal experiences and want to get away from their computers and out of their homes.
This change in consumer behavior has left retailers in a unique position – after years of closures, reduced hours and very little foot traffic, the tides are turning and consumers are valuing the personal experience more than ever.
Let’s look at the key trends in offline shopping and how companies are navigating the changing retail landscape.
The whole channel
The cross-channel shopping experience should be beneficial for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. It appears that in the past it has been largely one-sided, benefiting from the e-commerce side.
Customers tend to search for deals and compare prices online and often try on items in store only to find their size online and complete the purchase over the web. Or worse, buy multiple sizes of the same item online so they can try them on in the comfort of their own home, then return all the extra sizes they didn’t intend to carry to the nearest the shop. An excess of in-store returns negatively impacts brick and mortar sales, but provides an opportunity to engage the customer and introduce them to new products.
Only a few retailers are using their online presence to leverage their physical store locations. One way to do this is to have accurate and up-to-date inventory visible to the customer and let them know exactly where they are in the store to find the items they are looking for. For example, many big-box retailers specify on their website the exact aisle and location of items in the store, so a customer may begin their shopping experience online and instead choose to easily find the item in their nearest store and pick it up the same day.
Looking at it from another perspective, a report from Placer states that “Digital Native Markets (DNBs) have a unique perspective on the potential of multi-channel shopping. While most traditional retailers used stores as a starting point and then moved online , the online-only approach that these brands started out with provided the primary and often only path to early growth.However, many are now turning to brick-and-mortar locations to help expand potential success—and this shift is incredibly important. ”
It’s clear that a true omnichannel strategy is key to the future of retail.
“Brick-and-mortar businesses should engage in partnerships and event marketing, and if they engage in media at all, they should focus on local media,” says Amanda Berlin, PR Consultant at ABerlin Agency, Inc.
She advises that identifying local strategic partners who have the same target customer and can introduce the brand to new audiences or customers is essential.
“With these associates, or solo brick-and-mortar business owners, they can create experiences for their potential customers to draw them into the store and give them something they can’t get from an in-store experience. internet – and something they have sorely missed during the pandemic. Building an event with a collaborator can expand the reach of the event and bring in new faces. With all the media options and easy access to online media like podcasts and online magazines, businesses need to stay focused on attracting local audiences. Only engage in a media relations effort if it is highly targeted and focused on local opportunities,” adds Berlin.
As you might expect, the draw for shoppers to return to brick-and-mortar stores is solely for the experience they can have – whether it’s talking to a salesperson, seeing and touching products in person, or attending engaging events. Experiential marketing can go a long way in building brand equity and increasing sales.
“Frequent experiential activations in your retail location are a key strategy to get people in the door and keep them in your location for as long as possible. That time matters. Because consumers are becoming as driven by experience as they are by product quality, it’s critical that small and large retailers create experiences beyond the product they’re selling themselves. In-store activations build trust and deeper connections with customers,” says Adebukola Ajao, Digital Marketing Consultant at BDY Consult.
Brick and mortar stores must constantly look for ways to improve the in-store experience and add value to the shopper. Whether this is achieved by adding additional services, eliminating any pain points for customers or experiential events – it is a must to keep buyers engaged and coming back.
The challenges brought about by the global pandemic forced businesses to reassess their strategy and moved the needle forward in retail innovation. Brick and mortar stores must keep their finger on the pulse of the retail industry in order to take advantage of the unique opportunities that present themselves.
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