Staying alive

With high street retailing under the cosh, Graham Parker looks for a survival package.


Graham Parker is Sales and Account Director at Retail & Asset Solutions

As retailers and retail specialists we are all only too aware of the precarious industry that surrounds us. Seemingly steadfast brands are disappearing from the high street, and this new retail landscape is one in which only those that react and adapt to the latest challenges will survive.

Omnichannel retailing is clearly the biggest challenge to arise over recent years and, hand-in-hand with ever more sophisticated digital marketing methods, presents a huge challenge to retailers who aren’t optimising their online audiences, or ensuring their bricks and mortar operations are complementing their web offering.

Practical examples of how to stay ahead of the game in an omnichannel world include having a good hold on the stock profile, and understanding exactly the levels and lines of stock available for customers visiting the store or stores – particularly those who have identified products of interest through online marketing, and who want to take advantage of the benefits of shopping in-store.

A lack of in-store stock, information or staff support would be enough to put a customer off entirely – and probably make their feelings known across social and online channels too. If the customer can find the right product in the right place at the right price, there is little that can prevent them from buying.

Maximise the opportunity

Physical shopping trips are a special occasion in today’s technologically obsessed, 24-hour economy, so if you’re going to tempt shoppers to spend their precious time in your store then you need to make it worth their while. There are ways to enhance the offline experience, such as providing interactivity using QR codes to reveal more information (and incentivised offers such as loyalty points) on products in-store, the means to order extra items online instantly, and incentives such as special offers which are only available in-store. The experience should be a memorable and positive one, so offering free samples and physical services (product testing, advice and personal shopping), will all increase the value the customer sees in their visit.

Increasingly, the trend across retail is for the store to represent a showcase and hub of interactivity, with points to order and collect online items, information points and digital connectivity including location-specific offers, apps and functionality. The trend for ‘showrooming’, where customers research items offline in high street stores then go on to buy them through leading online retailers, has presented a challenge to bricks and mortar stores for years.

Once a customer is through the door of a store, the opportunity to market to them with additional incidental purchases is key, so retailers optimising that window with enticing displays, location-specific offers and intuitive store design will reap the benefits of those impulse buys that make up the value of each visit. For the natural health and nutrition market this can focus on the experiential aspect of trying out products, from tasting and recipes (maybe even in-store pop-ups) to advice and offers through in-store clinics and special product events.

The benefits of personalised social and digital marketing can also be used to take advantage of the shopper’s online interests, targeting them with content that highlights regional, store-specific and product offers relevant to their interests and requirements.

Future intelligence

As technological advancements like AI and the Internet of Things become more prevalent in the world of retail marketing, there is increasing potential for online targeting to blend seamlessly with offline, as customers’ data is gathered and used in more intuitive ways: using machine learning to predict which other items shoppers may want, and marketing to them at relevant times, such as healthy recipe and product ingredient suggestions at the gym or when watching cookery/healthy lifestyle programmes.

As we look to the future, it will be even more vital for retailers to use their customer data, behaviour and product information to drive marketing that blends the online and offline retail experience seamlessly and provides a range of incentives for the customer to shop with a particular brand or store.

The challenge for natural health and nutrition retailers across all their retail operations is to maximise the discretionary spend that footfall brings.

The human touch

The polarised success of retailers at either end of the market – those that are investing heavily in their store infrastructure and digital marketing, and those budget retailers that are aggressively competing on price with minimum fuss around the products – shows us where the future of retailing is headed. You either offer the customer an experience they can’t get anywhere else, one that really entices them, or you offer them a price they can’t get anywhere else, that also entices them.

While self-service and merchandising play a crucial role in the performance of retail success, it is important not to overlook the importance of knowledgeable staff and the value of a well-placed piece of advice in driving incidental purchases and even securing repeat custom.

Supply chain efficiency

No one has been safe from the endless speculation around Brexit and the potential challenges this may bring to a range of industries in the UK. As retail services experts working with a range of FMCG and high street giants, we can surmise the possible impact across imports within Europe could include inflation of goods costs, with the hit (or at least some of it) inevitably taken by retailers as they struggle to minimise the impact on their valuable customers.

We are seeing increased demand for supply chain services as retailers look to ensure they are closing any gaps in efficiency across the receiving and distribution of goods, checking accuracy and eliminating warehouse pick mistakes which may see goods sent to the wrong store.

RFID (radio-frequency identification) offers huge benefits to retailers, particularly in improving the accuracy and efficiency of stocktaking and checking stock loads in and out of stores, providing a more regular line in the sand in terms of stock accuracy. Retailers need to better understand which are their most popular stock lines, and which are slower moving, and act rapidly to optimise this. They can maximise profit by reordering, minimising shrinkage on certain lines or moving stock on through discount avenues as appropriate.

Customers want the in-store experience to be as simple and painless as online, so retailers should definitely implement technology that allows shoppers to self-checkout, whether that’s using in-store scanners and checkouts or apps to deliver convenience and speed. When it comes to returning unwanted items, single scan item return and quick refunds encourage shoppers to become more adventurous and impulsive with purchasing, both online and offline, which increases their overall spend and brand loyalty.

Summary

There are undoubtedly challenging times ahead for all retailers, and successful ones will be those that have a strong grip on their stock profile and are making the right products clearly visible to customers at the right price in the right place, to minimise frustration. Interactive information on products, purchasing and returns should be seamless and hassle free, and understanding what will help to attract customers to a store, engage them to return and spend more once they’re in, is key.

Retail & Asset Solutions supports retailers on stock levels, movement, promotion and presentation.
www.retailassetsolutions.com

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