Touchy-feely retailing

5 methods to compete with online-only retailers and bring customers to your bricks & mortar store.


Rob Shaw is MD of EMEA at Fluent Commerce

We are witnessing a disruption of consumers’ brand preferences – shoppers are still spending money, but they are choosing to buy different brands from different places, both offline and online.

This shift means gloomy forecasts for the retail industry are unfounded, but brands must simply adapt to the evolution of the retail sector and cater to changing tastes about where and how consumers want to shop.

Local government input will be required to boost footfall in physical stores while the overhaul of the high street environment takes place. The multi-use of space will need to be encouraged so that high streets become places for socialising, work and culture, not just somewhere to shop.

The crucial difficulty retailers face, however, is a lack of agility in changing direction. New players in the space have integrated newer technology more effectively and are more able to shift and adapt.

The key priorities for consumers now are time and convenience — shoppers are less likely to put aside time to visit a physical store unless they know they’ll get what they want. This is why the retailers who are recognising this and evolving swiftly are seeing better results.

Next, for example, provides next day delivery to both stores and homes, so that consumers can receive or pick up their orders at their convenience. Meanwhile, JD Sports has reported increased profits and revenues due to the use of a multi-channel offering and digital technologies that are credited with bringing more people in-store.

Here, we take a look at five ways in which retailers can stimulate footfall through the establishment of improved services that meet the needs of today’s shoppers.

1 PROVIDE EXPERIENCES, NOT JUST PRODUCTS

With 45% of people saying they would pay more for a better retail experience, retailers should think about ways to make the traditional shopping experience more immersive. Retailers are already adapting to cater to those looking for ways to connect with brands; department store Selfridges has incorporated an indoor skate park into its bricks & mortar locations, as well as in-store demos of products and play-based experiences.

Meanwhile chocolatier Hotel Chocolat has been staging events including chocolate lock-ins, workshops and craft demonstrations to lure customers back to the high street. To engage with customers, then, could you collaborate with others or showcase innovative uses of your products in your store?

Seeking ways to generate human connections will give people a reason to travel to the store. Make them want the whole package you’re selling – this could be an experience or simply a way to meet other like-minded individuals.

2 SUPPLY IMPROVED INFORMATION

Automating your omnichannel order orchestration to guarantee optimum fulfilment means your customers will receive more accurate and up-to-date delivery dates. They will know when they can travel to collect an order and so will be less likely to experience frustration at incorrect delivery dates or finding their product hasn’t been delivered when they go to pick it up. Happy customers are more likely to become returning customers, which will ultimately create better brand loyalty.

In addition, such systems mean retailers are able to automatically route orders to the optimum location for customers, and that means reducing delivery time and cost. Splitting orders or generating partial and drop shipments can allow retailers to boost sales and deliver more quickly to the relevant store for their customers.

3 USE DATA FOR PERSONALISATION

To be heard above the noise, retailers must ensure consumers feel the product is relevant to them and that their purchasing power is of value. Data can be harnessed to improve targeting and personalisation — but gathering and analysing this can be hard due to the high volumes being generated in silos which make finding the bigger picture difficult.

Merging disparate data sources into a unified repository will allow you to gain a complete view of the customer across all channels and create personalised merchandising and marketing accordingly. Such a 360-degree view of shoppers means retailers can supply a retail experience that works for the individual, meaning customers are more likely to travel to use your store.

4 UNIFY OFFLINE AND ONLINE EXPERIENCES

Customers expect to move from online to offline in one seamless, similar experience. This means retailers need to make the customer buying experience similar across all channels, from online to in-store and via smartphone. A truly omnichannel experience will allow consumers to feel they are connecting to a brand they know and recognise.

Further, establishing a commerce platform that unifies front and back end systems that can manage orders, inventory and customers, allows data to be more easily collated from these separate sources, meaning information can be delivered to shoppers more effectively.

5 PROVIDE EFFECTIVE CLICK-AND-COLLECT SERVICES

A recent report by Barclaycard and French sports equipment retailer Decathlon found that over 70% of UK shoppers choose click-and-collect, selecting the service at least twice a month.

Click and collect provides consumers with more control over when they obtain their product and brings delivery costs down—but it doesn’t only bring convenience to the customer. Retailers also save on delivery costs and click-and-collect helps to increase footfall in stores and provides perfect chances for further upsells. Indeed, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reported that nearly 70% of shoppers going in-store to collect an order then made an additional purchase while they were there.

Evidently, retailers must take advantage of the rising popularity of click-and-collect to provide efficient services for their customers. Inventory management, point-of-sale and e-commerce systems all need to be integrated completely to enable this. Above all, the customer experience must be seamless and convenient; a shopper noting an item is in stock when browsing online, only to learn it is unavailable once they reach the store, will have a negative view of the brand and may well stop shopping with them.

As well as this, growing numbers of shoppers are looking for free online delivery, and retailers can take advantage of this to increase customer numbers. You can then grow brand loyalty and move to attract customers to your physical store to collect items.

SUMMARY

It is clear that there are many ways retailers can improve the customer experience and provide shoppers with more reason to use them ahead of competitors. Additionally, harnessing technology can also help to reduce costs and protect profit margins. In a time of change, retailers must evolve to serve the changing demands of shoppers, and in doing so, set themselves up for future success while bringing customers back into their stores.

Fluent Commerce is a global commerce platform.
www.fluentcommerce.com

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