If you’re a brick-and-mortar store, the future can be a little frightening. Online stores are opening left and right while brick-and-mortar stores are closing at a rapid pace. Sears and Kmart retail stores, for example, have closed hundreds of their stores over the last couple of years. They experienced a combined loss of $1.1 billion in 2015 and a decline of 20 percent in revenue, shutting down nearly 43 percent of their existing stores as a result.
Nordstrom, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and dozens of other major chains are also closing stores all over the country primarily because online retail is growing so rapidly. If big box stores can’t stay open, how can your brick-and-mortar store hope to compete in such a landscape?
It’s true that brick-and-mortar stores are shrinking as online retail grows, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end. By applying the right tactics, you can remain competitive alongside your online competition.
1 – Start with a Better Online Experience
Do you have a website that’s responsive, loads quickly, provides contact information, answers questions, and provides value for your customers? If not, you’re already falling way behind the competition. The first step in staying alive and thriving is to link your online to your offline.
Start with a great website. Brick-and-mortar retailers can benefit most from creating organized product pages, like this page from The Three Graces, an estate jewelry retailer. It features organized web pages with imagery, price points, and contact information to make the process easy for visitors. The same can be applied to any retail brick-and-mortar store.
You’ll also need to make it clear within your physical store that you have an online presence. Market your website alongside your physical business and incentivize shoppers to shop both online and in-store with discounts and other perks. The better your online experience, the more loyalty you’ll create.
2 – Offer More Personalized Experiences
“The future of customer retention for brick-and-mortar stores lies in personalized experiences,” advises Michelle da Silva of Shopify. This is because personalization on websites (though infinitely better than it was 10 years ago) is still lacking, and it can’t possibly replace the personalized experience you get when you enter a brick-and-mortar store with live people available to help you.
Alongside great customer service, da Silva recommends a couple of ways to improve the personalized experience in your store: “One way is to offer tailored shopping experiences or personal shopping services. Another method is to truly home in on who you’re trying to target as clientele and build a shop curated specifically to them.”
She uses the example of the shop Bonobos, which uses an app called Guide Shop to let shoppers try on clothing, but have items shipped to their house rather than leaving the store with them. It’s a great way to combine the best of both worlds with brick-and-mortar and online shopping.
3 – Use Big Data
Retail, in general, relies heavily on big data to define customer experiences and prepare them for the future. The insights they collect make personalization possible, and this isn’t just meant for the online retail scene.
“Harnessing accurate and valuable customer data is crucial to design and deliver personalized, contextual, and relevant engagement programs for an exceptional customer experience,” says a white paper from July Systems. “The data will play a critical role in helping enterprises understand and bond with their customers in a very different way. In order to design that personalized experience or create that distinguished offer that will have customers running to your store, you have to become an expert on your customer’s behavior, know them inside out, research their preferences, buying patterns, their location, preferred time to connect, and what would interest them etc.”
If you’re seeking ways to remain competitive with stores closing all around you, leveraging big data opportunities can be a huge advantage. Real time analytics will help you make decisions, both large and small, for the progression of your organization.
Brick and mortar stores: Don’t give up yet! There are plenty of opportunities to learn about your customers and provide an excellent experience, even as the online retail scene continues to grow.
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