Take a cue from brands like Warby Parker and Everlane.
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The recent news of Sears shutting down, coupled with Amazon now running over 600 retail stores, has made one thing very clear — the retail industry is in the midst of a significant shift. Customers who once flocked to the convenience and excitement of online shopping and direct-to-consumer brands still prefer shopping in a brick-and-mortar location, due in large to the experiences and deeper level of brand engagement it affords. In fact, according to a survey by the NRF, 79 percent of consumers said that retailer or brand experiences are important in determining how frequently they shop, and the brands and retailers they visit. What's more, nearly six in 10 shoppers are driven into stores for special events and experiences hosted by retailers, including the ability to try out products, exclusive access to sales, and product demonstrations and tutorials.
As a result, the clicks-to-bricks expansion is underway, largely driven by the deeper personal experiences that stores offer. Today, brands that were established online, including Everlane, Warby Parker and Wayfair, are turning to brick and mortar as a new way to connect with their audience. These physical stores allow customers to see, touch and experience the products and brands, which creates deeper engagement and brand loyalty.
As it stands, the process of breaking into brick and mortar is extremely challenging, if not impossible, for many brands. Long term leases, high rents, capital expenditures and operational logistics make it a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. Despite consumer demand for new kinds of IRL shopping experiences, the current model does not allow new brands, whether big or small, domestic or international, to take risks with experimental and experiential concepts, and many malls continue to struggle as vacancies hit an all-time high.
Despite the increased focus on implementing technology to improve the customer experience, brands and retailers are an often overlooked part of the equation. The traditional retail model hasn't been able to successfully incorporate technology. The industry has been stuck in a rut and resistant to change. The current retail model will continue to struggle until it evolves to serve the modern needs of brands, not just shoppers. This means providing businesses with the correct tools and a community in which to grow, leveraging technology to streamline operational processes, providing a greater support system for long-term success, and enabling brands to build the experiences that consumers want. What if we could apply the technologies and processes that have proved successful in other industries, particularly ecommerce, to brick and mortar?
If you are interested in taking the plunge into brick and mortar, consider the following to ensure success.
Technology has made several things in our lives easier; why not running a business? There are several services such as Square, Shopify, Dor, Zendesk and QuickBooks that automate the often tedious and time-consuming operational processes necessary to run a store. These apps and software tools remove the hassle from tasks like point-of-sale operations, foot traffic counting, customer support and accounting and free up time to focus on engaging your customers, growing your business and thriving in your local community.
Join or build a community.
Like many aspects of life, a supportive community can help you and your business thrive. Find a group of like-minded individuals — mentors, friends and fans — that are committed to helping you and your store succeed. In addition to your local network, you can also look to larger national organizations. Your local Chamber of Commerce or local industry and trade associations can be great resources. Multi-brand retail concepts are also an easy way to network within an established community and become part of a larger shopping destination, while amplifying word-of-mouth marketing, and thus visibility, for your business.
Find ways to give back, whether it be on a local or national level. Some ideas include donating your products, volunteering your time as a team, or contributing to a charity that resonates or aligns with your business values. Giving back is always a great way to spend your resources, it also helps establish visibility and context around your community. Today's customers are conscientious of where they spend their money and are more likely to invest in brands that hold similar values.
Focus on experiences.
Connection is key to delivering shoppers an experience they want and will keep coming back to. Consider how you can create a unique experience that shoppers can't get anywhere else, like a visually engaging display, on-the-spot customization, complimentary trials or samples, or same day delivery. Going above and beyond when it comes to customer experience will help to convert first time shoppers into repeat customers and eventually brand advocates that will recommend your business to friends and family.
The retail industry is far from dead, it just needs to innovate in order to succeed. By focusing on community and offering services that allow business to not just exist, but to thrive, we can build a new model that shoppers desire and brands need.