What Offline Retailers Can Learn From Their Online Counterparts

Patrick Foster
Patrick Foster
Guest Contributor

Replicating the highly personalized online shopping experience in brick-and-mortar stores requires an investment in technologies to automate repetitive tasks, provide real-time data on customers’ shopping journeys and deliver just-in-time product information and customer service training to associates.

As all veteran retailers know, shopper traffic is falling and more and more consumers are researching goods online to find the best prices and product recommendations. In looking to ‘bridge the gap’ between online and brick-and-mortar stores, smart retailers need to invest their store technologies to ensure their brand is future-proof and moves with consumer trends. Here are some lessons offline retailers can learn from their online counterparts.

Become An Expert In Your Field

Digital natives of the millennial generation and so on are used to carrying the world’s store catalog in their pockets at all times. These customers really do ‘know best’ because they are used to looking up product specifications and reviews before parting with their money. For retailers who are lagging behind, you could be missing out on business if you cannot at least match, if not better, their levels of product knowledge.

Give your shop assistants devices and apps that allow them to look up product details and competitors at the click of a button. The future of retail will see stores becoming ‘engagement hubs,’ rather than destinations to passively visit and browse goods. Think about your customer’s problems and how your staff can offer expert advice if you want to sell, or upsell, products in a hyper-competitive market.

Automate Your Inventory Processes

Online retail stores benefit greatly from automated systems that allow them to track and update inventory. Should you experience anything like theft or damages in your retail outlet, your systems will have automatic records of everything from your stock levels to your shipment details, all from one secure information hub, saving you time and worry.

For retailers who are still counting stock manually, you could be missing out on precious time and resources, with no guarantee of accuracy in your records. With automated inventory systems, your staff can quickly check if you have an item in stock without having to go ‘check out back,’ only to return five minutes later empty-handed.

Further, consumers are becoming more and more impatient. You will likely lose a customer if you have run out of a certain product. They will simply try somewhere else. With automated systems, you will be alerted when an item of stock needs to be reordered, so you can make sure you get your goods delivered in time to meet demand.

POS systems can also allow customers to pay with alternative forms of payment. Skipping queues and taking payments from anywhere in your store provides consumers with an express service that puts their needs first. This does a lot to improve customer service and build brand loyalty amongst consumers.

They Use Personalization

Online retail allows for personalization of content, giving product recommendations based on what the individual has viewed previously on a site and what they may have purchased in the past.

Brick-and-mortar stores can only offer this level of service if they know people as regular customers. By combining personalization systems with the friendly face of a shopkeeper, you can supercharge sales and give your customers a sense of exclusivity that will keep them coming back for more.

RetailNext’s Full Path Analytics solutions combine personalized data with RFID tags to create a tailor-made shopping experience for every customer walking around your store.

They Make Savvy Purchasing Decisions

Anticipating your customers’ demand for certain goods can feel like guesswork if you’re a traditional retailer without access to customer analytics data. E-commerce brands that can accurately monitor which items sell well (and which don’t) have the distinct advantage of being able to ‘chop and change’ inventory when it suits them.

This is especially true if they use dropshipping agreements. Under these terms, you only pay for the items you sell and storage and shipments are handled by a third party.

Accurately anticipating retail demand begins with great analytics technology. With RetailNext, you can analyze how customers move and browse the goods in your store, along with average transaction values.

They Make The Most Of Omnichannel Selling

In 2017, retailers must occupy a number of marketplaces in order to maximize their sales. Setting up Amazon, eBay, and Etsy accounts will ensure your products get noticed by the millions of online customers browsing after you’ve shut shop for the day. Automated CRM systems allow you to track and fulfill your online orders across all selling channels, to ensure demand is consistently met, regardless of where your customers are buying from.

Embracing omnichannel selling requires a mixed approach to your marketing efforts. You will need to approach each marketplace differently, displaying your product information through alternative tags, descriptions, image layouts, use of video, and so on. Some of these insights may influence what you choose to put on display, how you plan your discount offers, and how you bundle deals in your store.

Veteran retailers should look at their online offerings in detail and ensure they are keeping up with the competition by ‘bridging the gap’ between online and offline selling. To maintain agility and future-proof your business, invest in technologies that automate repetitive tasks and provide real-time data on your customers’ shopping habits. To give you an edge over e-commerce brands, give your sales team thorough product knowledge and good customer service training. Make them the experts and you can hope to replicate the highly personalized online shopping experience in your brick-and-mortar stores.   

About the writer: Patrick Foster is an entrepreneur and advisor for e-commerce brands looking to make an impact on both online and offline consumers. He writes a blog over at ecommercetips.org. Follow Patrick on Twitter, or add on LinkedIn.

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