Let’s be honest. It’s far more convenient to shop from your couch than drive to the store, find what you need, load it in the car, and then unload it when you get home. Isn’t it easier to have everything delivered to your doorstep?
With recent large-scale closings by Staples and RadioShack, it seems like retail is on the verge of oblivion. But brick-and-mortar retail isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Retailers will survive if they resist the urge to drown in digital and embrace what makes them stand out: the shopping experience.
Ordering a sweater from your couch doesn’t offer a dressing room, a helpful salesperson, or the satisfaction of snagging a sale because you outlasted others’ clearance rack commitment.
Brick-and-mortar stores still stand out to customers. Here’s how you can capitalize on the points of differentiation and persist through the digital age.
Engage The Senses
Shopping is a tangible experience. You touch the fabric, feel the weight of products, and sample perfume to ensure it suits you.
Online shopping is convenient, but it offers no sensory experience. It’s impossible to know how a product actually looks, feels, or smells. By playing up your in-store experience, you’ll solidify the reasons customers come back, even when they could order online. Try these ways to amplify guests’ experience:
- In-store events: People outside your customer base might pass your store and see the event or hear about it from a friend. These potential customers will learn about your brand and be more likely to visit your store if something exciting is happening.
- Referral programs: Give customers a reason to bring their friends by rewarding them. Offer store credit, free items, or raffle prizes in exchange for referrals.
- In-store seminars: Teach customers how to use your product. By providing added value, you’ll establish a reciprocal relationship that will increase their likelihood of making a repeat purchase.
Having a real person help you and interacting with technology to personalize the experience is something online retailers can’t match. These kinds of promotions set physical stores apart from their discount-happy online counterparts.
- Georgetown Cupcake tweets a secret, not-on-the-menu cupcake every day. The first 100 customers to request the secret cupcake at each location get one free cupcake. If a free cupcake doesn’t draw customers to your business, I don’t know what will.
- Burberry live-streamed London Fashion Week and invited customers to its stores to watch. After it was over, associates distributed iPads to customers so they could browse and purchase the items they just saw.
- Make Up For Ever put iPads in its stores to let shoppers virtually try makeup combinations by uploading their own photos.
Although it may seem that e-commerce is king, brick-and-mortar retailers are here to stay as long as customers have good reasons to shop with them. While it’s appropriate to incorporate digital into your store’s shopping experience, remember that ultimately, the tangible shopping experience is what keeps customers coming back.
Sam Bahreini, a seasoned operations officer and agile entrepreneur, is co-founder and COO of VoloForce, a company that helps enterprise retail brands understand organization implementation through automation and simplification.