When Brick meets Click
To frame it as a battle between brick-and-mortar and eCommerce is to miss the point.
The rise of online shopping, tech experiments and financial struggles are the dominant narratives of today’s retail industry. Just because people are less likely to walk through the doors of certain stores nowadays does not mean they’re not interested in stores in general.
The problem is that certain retailers have a harder time determining what those customers want in the first place. Big stores try to be something for everyone and they end up being nothing for anyone. Amid these shifts, smaller players can’t simply look the other way. They should be watching and learning from big retail’s shortcomings and viewing this moment as one filled with opportunity.
The shadow of eCommerce is overblown.
It’s an oversimplification to suggest that the reason retailers are closing is because people are shopping online. The truth is more complicated. When we think of eCommerce sales replacing brick-and-mortar sales, we don’t often think of it happening within a company. Retailers who pursue omnichannel strategies may just be taking business away from themselves. Macy’s online business represents 15 percent of their total sales, and yet they’re now closing 13 percent of their stores. That number’s too close to be coincidental.”
Purchasing behavior also varies too much from industry to industry. For example, 30 percent of transactions for technology products or services happen online, compared with only 16 percent of apparel sales. Instead, Off-price retailers (think T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack) have been thriving by comparison, competing on price and convenience even though they don’t have much of an online presence.
The landscape is fragmented
Online sales aren’t the only tech development shaking up retail. Today, you can sell nationally without a chain of stores and without owning any of your inventory or assets. You can outsource your call center and marketing campaigns. You can reach a large audience via social media. Or you can manufacture and sell your own products rather than selling through a third party. One category of retailers that are performing well today is made up of those that are competing on what’s cheaper, faster or easier. At the other end of the spectrum, there are retailers who have differentiated themselves by offering an exclusive product or experience.
“The way you win is you find opportunity, you find where there’s an unmet need, where you perceive scarcity, and you go after it in an unapologetic, very focused way. So being nimble, means being able to find those, take advantage of them, move out of them and move on to new ones, fast.”
Get to know your customers.
Knowing what your customers want is the first step to making them happy. A successful retailer is someone who can go in, scour the market and pick the best products to fit the personality of their store that openly matches the personality of the consumer who wants to shop in that store. The ability to drive your business based on the pulse of the consumer drives all the difference.
Stores are reaping years of poor customer service. Generally, people want someone to greet them and they want the store to be clean. But serving them beyond those bare minimum requirements is a prime opportunity to gain insights into what they want and seal the deal if they’re on the fence about a purchase.
Yes, there are going to be some customers who don’t want help but at the end of the day, if you’re not curious about everyone who you have coming in the door, you’re settling for crumbs when you could have the whole feast.
Customers shop for experiences
Personalization is key, but that goes beyond offering a combination of products that customers want. There is a desire for uniqueness is especially true of younger customers.
Every retailer should work to curate a one-of-a-kind experience, rather than a one-size-fits-all. Experience, in and of itself, is what today’s customers desire more than material possessions. If you want your customers to buy stuff from you, one strategy might be to frame it around an experience a customer might be gearing up for.
“A specialty retailer has the ability to say, ‘If you’re going on a trip, here are all these things together in one place. This all works together.’ A holistic attempt at creating this full package.”
Add value to Customers
Today, technology presents several options such as In-store beacons, Self-serve kiosks, Smart mirrors that enable virtual try-ons etc. Retailers should be wary of being lured by these superficial objects and ask themselves: “What value is this really adding for the customer? “If you know your customers, you’ll be less likely to experiment with irrelevant gimmicks that many customers will find pathetic, such as a DJ in the middle of a men’s department.
The internet is what has led customers to expect hyper-personalization, and as a niche retailer, you might benefit more from targeting tools than someone who sells to the masses. To build a solid foundation for your business, you must first identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly. It’s better off being a leader than a follower, or doing something others aren’t.