Thanks to new technologies, consumers enjoy myriads of options to shop online or via mobile. Because of that, traditional retailers must catch up and give an even better experience to a busy customer. But what changes do they have to make to thrive in this new age of retail?
This is just one of many questions Nicasio answers in her new eBook Retail Survival of the Fittest: 7 Ways to Future-Proof Your Retail Store, a practical guide to modern retail success.
Launched on Dec 2, 2014, Retail Survivor of the Fittest shows how the retail landscape is changing and looks at the ways these changes can enhance the evolution of brick-and-mortar shopping.
The author introduces us to her own experience in an Apple Store, where she needed to replace her damaged iPhone. While the place was packed when she arrived on time for her Genius Bar appointment, her visit ended with a fast “trade in” of her broken phone and getting a new one for a fraction of the cost. Nicasio was impressed by the sense of urgency and quality of service she received, and thought that was exactly “what every in-store experience should be like.”
She also emphasizes that retail is no longer what it used to be. “It’s physical with digital,” according to an A.T. Kearney’s Omnichannel Preferences Study she refers to.
The same study points out some interesting facts: “90 percent of all retail sales are transacted in stores and 95 percent of all retail sales are captured by retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence.” Besides that, “two-thirds of customers purchasing online use a physical store before or after the transaction.”
What role does technology play in this? A major one, no doubt.
While many consumers end up at the brick-and-mortar stores to complete their transaction, they use their smartphones to research products and offers.
As to the Internet, traditional stores must have an online presence to be visible and be able to bridge the gap between offline and digital channels. They shouldn’t ignore getting listed on search engines and social networks.
On the other hand, even though some consumers use e-commerce exclusively, numbers show that more people buy offline. According to a recent Forrester study, webrooming — the practice of looking at items online and buying them in a physical location — will result in online sales that are predicted to reach only $370 billion by 2017, as opposed to $1.8 trillion in retail sales within the same time frame.
The study also shows that 62 percent of responders prefer to buy merchandise online and, if needed, return products in-store. This is an element retail stores can take advantage of as opposed to e-commerce businesses. A return can result in a new sale, something that doesn’t usually happen online.
That said, there ‘s no better time for brick-and-mortar stores to evaluate their online, offline and mobile strategies in order to succeed in the retail landscape, and brainstorm ways of how to become omnichannel retailers.
Retail Survivor of the Fittest isn’t merely an argument that retailers need to implement new ways of doing business. It’s a blueprint of how to actually do it.
Here are the parts of the blueprint that resonated with me.
As someone who passionately hates repetitive manual work, I can relate to “the magic of automation.”
“Increasing your profit margins isn’t just about tweaking your prices or discounts; you can also widen margins by reducing expenses—most notably your operating expenses,” writes Nicasio, who recommends automating certain business processes like data entry or managing staff schedules.
Another aspect that rang true to me, as an enrolled customer in several loyalty programs, was boosting customer loyalty. Happy loyal customers convert much better and spend much more than new shoppers. Since they spend more, they have to be rewarded, a process that’s easily done thanks to advancement in mobile and POS technology.
Retailers can reward loyal customers not just for purchases, but also by spreading the word among their friends. Apart from that, as the author writes, running rewards programs that are seamless, easy, and automatic is key in making loyal customers come back for more.
And finally, giving consumers the best experience is crucial. It’s why people prefer to buy products at Apple Stores instead of Amazon, Best Buy or Walmart, where prices are lower. Apple staff focuses on “building relationships and trying to make people’s lives better,” says Ron Johnson, former VP of Retail at Apple.
Nike is another such great example. They educate their customer first, before even selling a pair of shoes, writes Leggett & Platt’s Mark Quinn, as he shares his personal in-store experience with the giant sports brand.
What’s also great about Retail Survivor of the Fittest is how it gives examples of successful businesses and the solutions and best practices they implemented. It’s evenly structured, written in a simplistic language, and provides concrete action steps at the end of each chapter. All retail store owners have to do is follow these steps and build their own path to retail success.
The eBook is available for a time-limited free download.