There’s no question that online shopping has risen in popularity over the last five years, but even so, there’s still a strong case to be made for the high street.
According to recent research, 45% of people still like to shop in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and another study showed that 68% of teenagers also still prefer an actual shop – despite the high proportion of online shoppers being among the younger generation.
What many online retailers seem to be forgetting is that humans are first and foremost social creatures. Our reasons for shopping don’t just include the desire to consume, but a desire to interact, mingle, explore, and sample.
It’s for these reasons that ‘omnichannel shopping’ – that is, businesses with both online and offline shopping options – is fast becoming a highly sought-after strategy for retailers. The deciding factor in the success of a brand isn’t whether or not a business has an ecommerce offering, but how well they blend their in-store offering with the digital platform. John Lewis, Apple, LUSH Cosmetics, Hollister and Argos are all brands that have seen no or very little decline in footfall since the rise of online shopping, mostly because of their ability to adapt – and smaller businesses could take some inspiration from the example they’ve set.
So don’t let the future success of your brick-and-mortar store slip away. Here are some ways your business can start making the most of the digital wave.
Click & Collect is becoming a huge trend in the UK, with over 5,500 retailers already signed up to the service. Customers can shop online, and then pick up their purchase from a local store at a time convenient for them. Not only do consumers get the product they want, they also manage to avoid the added delivery costs that come with most online orders, and companies no longer need to subsidise these costs in order to retain their market share.
In the modern retail world, it’s important for many businesses not only to have both online and offline channels, but to make sure that the two work in conjunction with each other
The case for Click & Collect is becoming more and more evident. By 2017, the number of shoppers in the UK using the service is expected to rise from 34% to 76%. A Forrester study also found that multichannel shoppers are “very likely” to visit a store if they are able to check product availability in advance, suggesting that people like assurance they’ll be getting what they set out for. For SMEs, it may be the case that a Click & Collect service is a relatively manual process to begin with, but a bit of extra effort in this area can be incredibly worthwhile.
Having an online catalogue available in store – for instance on a tablet that shoppers could use - can give your customers the freedom to browse stock that may not necessarily be in store at that given moment, including your online inventory. For example, a customer would be able to see if a desired product is available in another colour or size, and then decide whether to purchase in store or order online instead.
Similarly, employees can use in-store tablets to check availability of products and place orders on their customers’ behalf, to avoid losing customers whose requests cannot be satisfied there and then.
When using tablets in-store, be sure to choose a device that is simple to use, designed for business use and above all, is data-secured.
Digital price tags are a fairly new innovation, allowing stores to adjust their prices in order to keep up with the regularly fluctuating online marketplace. They could also be used to provide price comparisons for the customer, and tweaked to reflect exclusive, one-off promotions that may only be taking place in the store.
Digital price tags and their transmitters can carry a large initial cost, so it’s important to check your budget is sufficient to implement the technology. If you can afford them, they are a good way of giving your store the edge in offering customers competitive prices and making them want to visit again. Read more about digital price tags here.
Mobile geotargeting allows retailers both large and small to connect with shoppers when they are within a given distance or radius of their nearest store. Messages sent directly to their smartphone let them know of current in-store offers, or give them a unique discount code, for example.
Geotargeting can be a tricky strategy to get right, and must be carefully executed so as not to appear pushy or invasive. Make sure you keep your ads timely, subtle and relevant. Find out more about the pros and cons of geotargeting by clicking here.
Online commerce sites have long been able to use data to see which of their products are selling well, and how the position of products - or design of the website - affects sales. Now this power is coming to brick-and-mortar stores slowly but surely, through the process of data sharing.
With data, businesses can learn what is selling well – both online and in-store – and build a greater understanding of how to utilise shelf space, and product display or distribution methods. By monitoring the behaviour of online customers, they can also gauge when customers may be ready to buy certain products and align their store’s sales strategy accordingly.
Overall, in the modern retail world, it’s important for many businesses not only to have both online and offline channels, but to make sure that the two work in conjunction with each other. There are a number of ways in which businesses with offline, bricks-and-mortar stores can incorporate the online world into the service they offer customers – the above examples being just a few.
Adele is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru, specialising in consumer advice, retail trends and brand culture. She is a regular contributor for a number of B2B websites and enjoys participating in ongoing debates related to marketing, social media and brand strategy. She is particularly passionate about content marketing and the power it can bring for companies. Follow her @gurucustomers.
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