Are physical retail chains facing extinction
Are physical retail chains facing extinction, to be replaced by online retail?
Despite several retailers’ overall net-profit decline and the disappearance of certain stores altogether, the high street remains bustling with shoppers every weekend. However, with the influence of the internet, new technology and the rise of digital marketing, a number of retailers are struggling to keep up.
It seems the future for bricks and mortar retailers looks bleak. However there surely must be a future for them in omnichannel or multichannel retail strategy, rather than lose out completely to pureplays. What we are definitely starting to see is true retailers increasingly understanding the use of ecommerce as part of their retail solution and customer experience, in and out of the store, online and offline.
The channel through which consumers make a final purchase is irrelevant, and being where your customer is, is a simple matter of customer service. The bricks and mortar store is still an incredibly relevant part of retail. It completes the shopping experience across the five senses, and retail offers spaces for socialisation, entertainment and engagement- all of which bring communities together and create physical destinations for people.
The smart brick-and-mortar players recognize the inevitable rise of online shopping and are adapting to the new realities.
Click and collect service
John Lewis “click and collect service” strategy allows customers to buy online and arrange collection from a local store.
While the service is nothing new, allowing online customers the option to pick up purchases in store removes the hassle of having to wait for a delivery and allows the customer to pick up an item when convenient for them. It also removes the cost of delivery charges which can put some customers off purchasing online. Simple as it sounds, giving the customer the option of how they can receive their goods is an ideal way to improve the customer experience.
Take Macy’s: The 154-year-old retail chain is transforming nearly 300 of its stores into distribution centers to speed up shipping for online consumers.
Nordstrom, a whippersnapper compared to Macy’s at 111 years old, is taking an even more aggressive approach: free shipping and free returns in its online store.
Online shopping instore
IPads across Oasis’ stores enables the customer to browse online, pay online and place orders online whilst in store. Users have the option to try an item on in store, and then order it online and have it delivered, rather than having to queue at the till to pay.
If a garment is not available in the store, the customer can order it via the iPad. Staff are armed with the iPads and can help shoppers check sizes, colours and styles that aren’t currently available in the shop. Sales assistance via the iPad is available on both the shop floor and in the changing rooms, enabling the sales team to engage with the customer at the point of decision.
The iPad is a great example of enhancing the customer experience, as it decreases queue times, increases product availability and improves customer service.
Instore eBook service
Having expanded its product line to include eBook devices, Waterstones is allowing customers to buy and download content onto an electronic device using free Wi-Fi available in stores. The strategy enhances the customer experience by providing consumers with the option of purchasing an eBook, whilst physically browsing books in a traditional bricks and mortar store.
While many consumers are moving towards purchasing eBooks, previously the online set up meant customers missed out on the ability to flick through the book prior to purchase. The introduction of Wi-Fi allows book lovers the best of both worlds in terms of hard copy or eBook purchases. The convenience of downloading an eBook from in store, also provides eBook customers with easy access to the store’s specialist staff, trained to provide help and guidance on any of Waterstones’ books.
Innovative in-store technology
Innovations that personalise the shopping experience keep customers from turning to competitors along the purchasing continuum. In-store technology that enables consumers to interact with products will create unique shopping experiences which encourage customers to shop while fostering brand loyalty.
For instance, shoppers frustrated by the lack of standard clothes sizing will soon benefit from Bodymetrics walk-in body-scanning stations.
The scanning technology is used to generate a unique bar code containing the shopper’s detailed measurement data and a customised shopping guide.
The technology aims to transform the in-store shopping experience for consumers, creating a unique list of product recommendations.
Engage personally with customers
No longer a one-way street, retailers must let the customer help create the conversation and develop their brand. Social media can create an influential marketing channel, build brand goodwill and provide an insight into the “‘voice of the customer“.
Cosmetic retailer Sephora is one example of a company that has successfully created its own interactive shopping social space through the launch of its online Beauty Talk community.
Not only is the brand facilitating this discussion – putting themselves at the heart of the community – but Beauty Talk is driving their customers to buy more.
Sephora has created a social community where they do not push their products at their customers; instead customer discussions not only fuel authentic peer-to-peer recommendations, but drive increased basket size and value.
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