Over the past few years local retailers have been overshadowed by large online retailers and market places. Consumers have become more and more comfortable ordering the majority of their day to day necessities from their couch. U.S. e-commerce sales grew 16% in 2017 and are expected to keep growing. The one thing that has not changed is the need for retailers to have physical retail locations. Even Amazon has moved offline to create brick and mortar locations. The ability of retailers to operate without boundaries has changed the retail landscape and allowed national brands to access small target markets. Due to this new landscape local retailers can only compete by leveraging some of the same tools as big retail brands. Focusing on delivering an amazing local experiences to make customers happy is what will give small retailers the upper hand in protecting and growing their business.
Local Brick & Mortar retail businesses are not going anywhere despite the threat from nationwide brands and online giants. As the cost and convenience of household necessities seem to be improving, shoppers are still looking for great shopping experiences in-store. Positioning your retail store as a seller of necessities might put your store in an overly competitive situation, but offering unique or niche products and services can differentiate your business and fill the needs of a growing number of consumers that want to take the time to get something locally. Brick & mortar retail trends that are driving customer acquisition and retention are focused on both reaching more customers, improving their experience and giving them the opportunity to make a purchase where it suits them.
Getting found became easier through services like Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, Facebook, etc., but very quickly became more competitive. 84% of shoppers say that they trusted online business reviews as much as a personal recommendation from friends or family. So how do you get found by consumers that are already inundated by information? Get into their pocket and get their permission to communicate with them directly when they are in the right place at the right time. Consumers are protective of their email address but will share it with brands that they are interested in. Having permission to update and promote products via email has become the best way to inform customers of buying opportunities once again. Mobile apps enable retailers to communicate directly with customers. Although it is a powerful way to drive traffic to your store, it is a fine line and steps should be taken to provide only information that your customers actually want. Over-promoting or communicating in a way that was never agreed upon by your customers will ensure that your app is deleted and you lose that communication channel.
Invest in experiences. Don’t just think about your location or logo. Think about all of your customers’ senses and how you can communicate your values using all 5 senses. Looking professional and drawing customers in are two different things. Understanding what works takes time and investment. Consider ways to use smells, taste and sounds as well as visual and touch. Retailers are doing this by creating unique displays, installing interactive screens, thinking about 4-dimensional experiences and engaging customers using other devices whenever possible.
Hire hosts not clerks. Having a knowledgeable and approachable host can make sure that customers come back. This means investing in training your team and recruiting people that are passionate about what you are doing. Have you ever walked into an REI and met somebody in a department that did not actively participate in the activities within that department? Patagonia employs professional athletes and they do not incentivize them with big salaries. They incentivize them by giving them the flexibility and tools to go out and do the things that they love in the outdoors. Think about ways to attract people that want to share experiences and provide thought leadership around your product.
Allow your customers to shop through the channels that they prefer. Even though you have a local retail location, it is important that customers can access your information and even make purchases through their preferred channel. This is where many local retailers are lacking. Assuming that customers will come find you or that word of mouth is enough promotion to run a successful business. Go out and get your customers wherever they might be through multiple online and offline channels.
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