How e-Commerce Can Inform & Improve Upon Retail’s Brick-and-Mortar Experience

Luke Conod
Luke Conod
Guest Contributor

In today’s era of shoppers’ connected journeys, brick-and-mortar stores need to respond to shoppers’ values, needs and expectations - and taking note from their slick online retailing brethren is a great place to start.

There’s been a great deal of coverage about the decline of brick-and-mortar retail stores in recent years, with well-known brands struggling to survive the downturn in physical store sales including The Gap, American Apparel and RadioShack – to name but a few. While much of this is attributed to the sizeable growth of online retailers such as Amazon and other e-commerce enterprises that offer lower prices, greater product variety and convenience all at the touch of a button, it seems not all traditional retail outlets are willing to throw in the towel just yet.

In fact, some brick-and-mortar stores are learning from e-commerce models and tactics to curate a streamlined and personalized shopping experience that shoppers won’t find elsewhere. In today’s post, I’ll be exploring some of the lessons physical retail outlets can learn from their e-commerce counterparts, arming them with the necessary attributes to adapt and evolve in an ever-changing landscape.

Convenience is key

There’s no denying that shopping online allows consumers greater freedom to shop when and where they want without the typical constraints of standard retail opening hours and the whole buying process is almost seamless in most cases. Add the fact that there is huge scope for shoppers to browse multiple products and brands effortlessly, seeking out the best possible prices with just a few clicks, it’s easy to see why the popularity of online shopping is growing.

However, as a physical retail store, there’s no reason why you can’t adopt similar principles to your shopper experience to make a trip into the store quick, seamless and satisfying for the customer.

With time-poor consumers now on the rise, the key is to provide them with easy access to the products they like, followed up with a smooth transition from shop floor to the checkout that makes shopping in-store convenient and pleasurable.

To do this effectively, take the time to research current buying trends or any seasonal spikes and curate your store layout to reflect this – positioning popular products or seasonal must-haves in highly visible locations so they’re easy to find. This may mean scaling down the volume of stock on the shop floor to create a more showroom feel, but a less cluttered, clean approach that mirrors some of the best e-commerce websites will contribute to a smoother buying process – particularly when bolstered with a hassle free check out.

Optimize customer service

One distinct advantage brick-and-mortar stores have over online retailers is the chance to physically connect with customers when they visit a store – and this opportunity shouldn’t be missed.

While many online retailers overcome this well with convenient FAQs and live chat services to answer customer qualms, this doesn’t compare to face-to-face interactions. Your sales staff are key assets here, so take time to train employees thoroughly on how to engage with shoppers effectively without seeming pushy. Essentially your staff should optimize and personalize the shopping experience by acting as a physical live chat service – attentive, knowledgeable and readily available at the shopper’s request.

Within this remit, it also pays to re-evaluate and streamline the checkout process. When compared to online checkouts, the store buying experience can seem slow and clunky, so think of innovative ways to remove some, if not all, of the obstacles that may hinder shoppers. This could include self-checkout terminals, arming staff with mobile point of sale terminals to process sales on the shop floor or marrying online and in-store sales with buy online and collect in-store services.

Upsell where possible

From product suggestions to subscription services, online retailers are proficient at upselling to increase purchase volumes and these are all tactics that can be implemented in physical retail outlets too.

This method does rely on direct selling from shop assistants with additional product suggestions or buy-in to loyalty schemes and other subscriptions. However, there are more subtle ways to influence an upsell through store layout.

Simple strategies like grouping complementary items together like a pair of men’s jeans with t-shirts and accessories to sell a complete ensemble or being savvy with impulse buy items at the checkout and throughout the store – be selective about the products with a less-is-more approach.

Harness data

Many successful online enterprises harness the power of customer data to connect with their clientele and upsell. While it’s easier for them to obtain this data through the setup of online checkouts, this doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar stores can’t employ similar tactics.

Although some customers may have reservations about handing over their details at the cashier desk, you can make use of digital marketing strategies such as newsletters and social media promotions to encourage shopper engagement. This will then allow you to tap into their buying history and tailor promotional material to suit them – be it notifications of new products lines, discount sales and more.

Despite many household brands feeling the strain of the evolving retail landscape, it’s clear there is still very much a place for brick-and-mortar retailers. However, in order to succeed, traditional stores will need to adapt to the current climate and customer needs – and taking note from slick online retailers could be a great place to start.

About the writer: Luke Conod is Managing Director of Buy Jeans and its parent company Denim Nation, providing competitively priced men’s jeans and other high-quality clothing from leading international labels.

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