They say it is a retail slump. With reports on mega-stores closing and mall occupancy rates falling, retailers are generally pessimistic about the business outlook. But are things as bad as they are made out to be?
How can brick-and-mortar retailers create an ecosystem to promote foot traffic and visits to their physical retail outlets? We say, “Build your retail strategy around the customer and customer experience.” Here’s how you can start…
1. Have you adopted an omnichannel retail strategy?
No, not something about omnichannel again?! Well, if you have heard this rhetoric before but have not taken any clear action on your business strategy, then you ought to hear this again.
Remember how we mentioned about placing the customer and customer experience first? Think of how your customers may have changed over the years…
No one can deny the fact that consumer behaviour has taken a shift in the past decade or so; and this could jolly well be attributed to the fruits of technological advancements.
Technology has changed the way people shop, interact and engage with businesses. Today, we see sustainable retail businesses as the ones that are truly adapting their business models to cope with the direction of retail 4.0 (defined by TC Group Solutions as, “the integration between offline and online points of sale”).
If you are interpreting this as the need to shift your physical retail business completely to eCommerce, you are misunderstanding “omnichannel retail”, otherwise referred to as “New Retail” by Alibaba.
“[T]he future isn’t total domination of eCommerce.
Rather, it’s the complete digitisation of all commerce that could be the key to saving traditional retail.”
Omnichannel retailing does not necessarily mean a one-way expansion into eCommerce; it could work vice versa, and it definitely means more than selling products through an additional sales platform. Some examples of online shops that have expanded into retail spaces to achieve omnichannel retail presence include Love, Bonito from Singapore and Berrybenka in Indonesia. What these brands have in common are that they are extending a seamless shopping experience to their customers, allowing them to interact digitally in stores.
With an omnichannel retail strategy, retailers can employ push and pull marketing techniques to encourage traffic from online to traditional stores, and so forth.
2. Do you sell a product or an immersive experience?
Once an omnichannel retail strategy is in place, you should probably relook at your product positioning next.
Businesses are revolutionising the way products are sold these days. Brands are no longer selling just a product but also considering the customer’s experience. Focusing on the emotional connection between consumer and product, brands are starting to show how their products can make a difference or help solve a problem. They are starting to tell stories and beginning to portray positive experiences brought about by their products.
In the advertisement, “Homework”, there was no explicit mention of the product’s technical specification. Instead, it showed a group of children turn a dreaded assignment on gravity into an imaginative and immersive experience with the iPad.
Similarly at Samsung 837, Samsung’s Flagship of Tomorrow in New York City, the approach to their space is “un-retail”. According to Zach Overton, Vice President & General Manager of Samsung 837, he shared why Samsung 837 is not just another retail concept but an effort to reinvent the consumer brand experience to create an immersive and cultural space. After all, he said, consumers can easily purchase Samsung products conveniently from any of their preferred electronics stores:
3. Are your marketing campaigns relevant?
In order to deliver marketing messages that matter, businesses are giving their products a touch of personalisation. Nobody does it better than Coca-Cola.
For Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign, personalisation allowed consumers to purchase Coke bottles with their names on it. “But over the years, it has become more about the experiences and moments shared over a Coke,” shared Coca-Cola’s Brand Manager, Saxon Seay (“Share a Coke and Share the Summer: 2018 Campaign Focuses on Special Moments”).
Given the personal touch and catchy call-to-action jiggles and imagery of sharing a coke, their strategy propagated word of mouth marketing. This helped to generate share-ability of the campaign and drove more sales for Coca-Cola.
Read more at Medium – “Share a Coke and a Word: How Coca-Cola Captured Millennials Through Word of Mouth Marketing”.
The Body Shop also succeeded in driving footfall to their stores by 10% last Christmas. As part of the season of giving, the #PlayforPeace campaign encouraged the experience of gifting through (i) purchases of The Body Shop’s seasonal gift collection for Christmas, as well as (ii) a gift of donation to International Alert’s Play for Peace Project with every purchase from (i).
Read more at Marketing Interaction – “Case study: The Body Shop’s #PlayforPeace campaign drives store footfall”.
Both campaigns targeted Millennials and were successful in achieving their respective sales and store objectives through various mediums of engagement. If you are planning for your next marketing campaign, consider platforms for outreach and narrow in on your efforts to connect genuinely with your target audience. An all-rounded strategy can promote more than walk-in visits to your store but also online purchases in your omnichannel retail network.
4. Are you engaging with your customers and building a relationship?
We shared about the importance of engagement and connecting with customers. One common way to achieve this is through promotions.
However, discounts and bundle packages may not work all the time. Promotions must be reasonably enticing. As reported by Channel News Asia, Singapore’s retail scene saw “three consecutive years of decline in retail sales during the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) period” since 2016 with barely any hype. Shoppers lamented about the unoriginal promotions that were offered, which were already be extended to shoppers on a regular day.
If you are trying to invigorate life back to your brick-and-mortar store, you should start by having some casual conversations with your customers. Understand their preferences and show that their opinions matter by taking the necessary follow-up actions. You would be able to better design your marketing and engagement campaigns after being able to grasp your customers’ needs, wants and shopper profiles.
“I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.” – Oprah Winfrey
Be there for your customers and help them complete their shopping journey enjoyably while in your store.
5. Are you investing enough in your store assistants?
Personal and specialised products, such as cosmetics and fragrances, continue to welcome customers into their physical stores because testing of such products remains a crucial step in their decision and purchase making process.
These become pivotal retail touchpoints, where your store assistants have the opportunity to influence with your customers’ shopping journey (for the better, and for the worse). As brand ambassadors and storytellers of your brand, your store assistants play significant roles in developing authentic relationships, enhancing the customer experience and – eventually – converting leads to sales.
Hence, it is most necessary to groom your store assistants and transform them into personable, subject-matter experts. Once well-equipped with the applicable interpersonal skills and product knowledge, your sales assistants will be able to add value to your customers’ purchase experience. As soon as a positive rapport is established, there would be more opportunities to grow brand loyalty and encourage return visits to the retail store.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention.” – Jim Rohn
The retail landscape is changing and brand leaders are beginning to understand the value of placing the customer experience before the product. Ultimately, an all-encompassing omnichannel retail strategy is needed to woo customers to physical retail stores.