Despite living in a world of ultra-fast online services, a reported 54% of U.S. shoppers prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.
Learning From E-Commerce
While benchmarking your store against others in a similar sector is a great way to measure performance, it can be beneficial to compare with a business completely outside the realm of brick-and-mortar retailing. The longstanding example of learning from another sector or field is that MBA students study how Southwest Airlines applied the quick turnaround of Formula One racing cars in pit stops to their aeroplanes, taking the non-profitable time on the ground from 40 minutes down to 12.
In a similar vein, retailers could apply the efficiency of online checkout procedures to their stores, as online shoppers never deal with the hassle of checkout queues since their details are stored in the system. With a simple ‘pay now’ button, online consumers can make a purchase in mere seconds.
I am not suggesting that stores will be as slick as their online counterparts for transactional activity, but they can certainly close the gap. By implementing technology, perhaps in the form of point-of-sale and personal scanners, shoppers will undoubtedly feel the value of the improved in-store experience — helping to increase store traffic as a result.
Playing To Your Advantages
While it is true that online shopping is advancing, there will always be a place for high street retailers in consumers’ eyes. The in-store experience is what gives physical retailers the edge, whether this is social interaction, the instant purchase gratification, or being able to actually see and feel the products before purchasing. Even though online shopping offers the convenience of purchasing whatever you want, wherever you want, there is still the waiting period between deliveries that puts the process at a disadvantage. Convenience works differently for brick-and-mortar, and plays to those who need to test out the products before purchasing.
It is imperative for brick-and-mortar retailers to keep stores updated in order to achieve a stronger ongoing retail experience. Retailers are more competitive on the high street and the slowing consumer demand for physical shopping has left the weakest retailers, who refuse to embrace the technology that delivers experiential shopping experiences, to fade into obscurity.
The Power Of Technology
Advancing technology and software are both obviously increasing popularity for online shopping, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for physical retailers. Technology can be used to drive people into stores through the use of such initiatives as pop-up sales and special offers when consumers actually visit the store. If retailers use digital tools like this, they should make sure to keep the physical store updated as well. You want your customers to enjoy shopping online, but then not feel like they have stepped back in time by 20 years when they walk into the store.
There are a number of methods and technologies that retailers can utilize and implement to improve their stores. When it is used correctly, technology can help you understand how your customers interact with your brand, provide insights into what works and what doesn’t and curate a story for in-store teams based on shopper habits.
In the same way that analysts spend a huge amount of time monitoring what online customers are doing, retailers should pinpoint how many touch points a shopper has as they move through competitors’ web sites. The same principles can be applied to customers in a store, and where possible, look at the emotional journey within your store to create those all-important memorable experiences.
The Benefits Of Facial Profiling
Digital displays and signage can be used to narrate stories for all types of audiences. Think about the demographics of specific shoppers that come into your store, and ask yourself ‘How can I get a message across to multiple age groups and genders?’, or ‘If a man comes into the store, what does he want and how can we help him to get there?’.
If you have a message based on a product that is typically purchased by, for example, women, try to think of how you can tailor it to target other demographics too. Every display and signage should appeal to whoever walks in the store. Allowing digital signage to be controlled by its audience in this way will have a positive impact on every customer, not just one.
Facial profiling is one of the latest trends in in-store digital marketing, allowing retailers to display targeted promotions based on consumer insights. Using data such as gender and age, the software displays adverts and information based on whoever stands in front of the display. Utilizing the data collected on the purchasing habits of similar shoppers, it delivers relevant messages that are designed to drive positive purchasing behavior.
By measuring all marketing efforts and costs, and then overlaying this with the year-on-year traffic for the retail sector, accurate comparisons can be made against a specific store’s performance.
Even though online shopping is growing ever more popular, successful retailers are giving consumers a reason to put down their smart devices and visit the stores. As we have seen, investing in the correct technology can deliver tangible in-store results. Keeping up with industry trends and monitoring customer data helps retailers deliver in-store displays and marketing campaigns, allowing a stronger focus on what is proven to drive greater traffic and sales. The in-store experience is what keeps people walking through the doors, but to stay relevant, retailers need to keep an eye on their online counterparts, and keep their approach modern and fresh.
Peter Luff is the president of IPSOS Retail Performance, a leading global retail and traffic consultant. Alongside his team, Luff collects traffic data for brick-and-mortar stores to help retailers identify consumer trends, habits and insights to improve the general customer experience. Working with some of the world’s largest brands, IPSOS delivers data from across 50 countries, monitoring over 3.1 billion visits every year.