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article imageKeeping brick and mortar retail relevant

By Jacki Viles     Mar 8, 2014 in Business
Atlanta - The American Customer Satisfaction Index for 2013 is out and there are some mixed messages for the retail sectors. For the first time since 2001, customer satisfaction within the Internet Retail categories have fallen almost 5 percent.
Most of the dissatisfaction came from the year-end holiday rush. It was the largest year yet for Internet holiday shopping and it appears that volume had taken its toll on customer service. Internet sales were up 17 percent in 2013. This and the disappointing delays in shipping due to inclement weather in most parts of the country made for a very disgruntled online customer.
Holiday foot traffic was at an all time low last year as a record number of consumers embraced their mobile devices and tablets to research their selections online. As a matter of fact, this past holiday season saw consumers reversing the known ‘show rooming’ trend by researching prices online first then jumping in the car and going to buy it in person at their local brick and mortar store. This new trend explained the ‘less foot traffic, greater sales dollars’ phenomena that we saw in 2013.
Still, with all the big data analytics available to merchants these days, the definition of the new customer is still elusive. Retailers who have a physical presence and an online presence struggle to cater to both separately. There is not a strictly online customer or a strictly brick and mortar customer. They are a hybrid and the successful retailer will need to bounce between channels all the time.
Customers should be able to return merchandise that they purchased online at any store in person. Paying for your merchandise in person should be as quick, safe and seamless as your online process. Instant gratification is your customer’s best friend. Can you email receipts from the store to your customer? Do you accept PayPal at your store? Do your best to standardize and personalize the shopping experience across multi channels to make the shopping experience comfortable and easy to understand.
A wallet full of money
A wallet full of money
Wikimedia Commons
Aren’t you happy these customers shopped with you? Online or in person, the customer has many options. When they do shop in your store, or online for the first time, make sure they get a thank you note with a discount offer. Market research indicates that these "Welcome" email promotions are more likely to be opened and used by the recipients than any other promotion that a retailer will send.
One reason may be that the personal touch makes the customer feel relevant. In this automated world, studies indicate what local shopkeepers have known forever. Reaching out to create a social relationship is appreciated. Personalization is hard to do online. But people will always remember kindness. A good experience at a store will make people want to come back.
Alter your company mindset from within. If you have added an E Commerce site to a seasoned traditional business and management treats it as if it were a horrible nightmare, that feeling of dread will trickle down throughout the company. Your sales and marketing staff should be embracing the new multi-channel business as an opportunity.
Savvy business owners will look to leverage existing resources that work across both sides of the business. Engaging complementary social media programs in both venues can be extremely lucrative.
Let’s not forget one of the biggest expenses that can make or break an online store- Shipping. In order to be successful you need to offer free shipping. And you need to get the product into your customers hands very quickly.
Macy’s has been very successful at adding mini shipping facilities to 500 of its 840 stores in direct response to the quick delivery times that competitors like dictates.
Many merchants are tweaking their warehouse programs to handle load balancing and logistics and to save money on shipping costs.
A general view of the storage hall at the 70 000 square metre warehouse floor in Amazon s new distri...
A general view of the storage hall at the 70,000 square metre warehouse floor in Amazon's new distribution center in Brieselang, near Berlin
With permission by Reuters / Tobias Schwarz
It’s a give and take to make the best of both worlds but the best of both worlds is really out there. It’s not over for traditional retail. It is better. The new retail model listens to its customers needs and caters to them. The trend is to make the shopping experience personal. This is a big win for consumers. It wasn’t that long ago that you bought what the merchandising planners and buyers wanted you to buy. You probably didn’t even realize that your purchases were predetermined by design. The new paradigm is a breath of fresh air. Customers and retailers should be so excited right now.
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