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A Guide to Surviving the Retail Landscape

[Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes]

2017 was a tough year for many retailers. Many of the biggest names in brick-and-mortar had to close their doors to dropping sales and foot traffic. So what can we attribute to this drop in mall shopping and department store conversion? Are customers still happy with an in-store experience? Well, “in 2017, mobile devices drove approximately $1.7 trillion in offline retail sales” (Conick, 2017, p. 42).

Some retailers just aren’t investing in this revolution of mobile usage. You have to go where your customers go and right now; people are on the move and crave immediate experiences. Mobile devices provide flexibility and convenience for purchasing, reviewing products, and engaging companies.

I have worked in retail sales for 17 years and witnessed the evolution of customer shopping. You can’t just hope and wait for customers to walk into your store. You have to capture your sales and audience. Today, marketers must combine traditional methods with the digital experiences on mobile devices, specifically apps, social platforms, and e-commerce. If it is going to be a mobile first world, then how are you going to change? Three key steps will get you there!

Reframing Culture

            Does your company embrace education and reward change? The only way I see retail stores moving forward is if executives and marketers can embrace the change in client shopping and provide sales staff the tools and education to effectively engage their customers. Marketing must collaborate with education in order to provide a successful customer service experience with the use of mobile devices and e-commerce. In stores, are you empowering your sales staff to get excited about technology? As a sales specialist, you must change your mindset and be prepared for a well-educated customer who knows what they want. By connecting your in-store experiences with your mobile experiences, you are solidifying a more cohesive picture of your brand and company.

Customer 101

Every time a client walks in your door there is an opportunity to gather information. App usage provides a wealth of information and companies must be ready to analyze what customers want and how they want to receive that information. What services do they use on your app? When and how do they rate your products? Where are they going to engage your brand? What stores do they shop at? From shopping lists to scheduling appointments online, you have to be prepared and understand what your customer wants right from the time they click on your brand or walk in your door.

In-Store Experiences

Based on a “Future of Retail 2018” report, 400 retail executives were surveyed and 55% stated that they plan on spending a portion of the marketing budget on in–store experiences by 2020. So why is this important? Unique store design, hands-on technology, and genuine customer experiences will be your best tool in staying relevant on the retail scene. A client can get a fragrance, a book, or pair of shoes anywhere now, so what makes them come to you for that purchase? It’s called experiential retail. By providing a service that they can’t get anywhere else, you are creating an experience that the customer will remember. Have you ever walked into a store and they knew you by name? It is pretty amazing, right? “Welcome back!” “We appreciate you.” “You bought “this fragrance” for your wedding day, how was your special day?”

It is more than just selling a product, it is creating a relationship. The basic, “are you finding everything ok?”  You know and I know; it’s bland, lifeless, and not what we want to hear day in and day out. Top notch customer service with an engaging store design will make your customer feel like they are on the top of the world. By using technology in the experience, you are solidifying the connection to the brand.

For example, “Let me show you this new design feature!” Or “We can save all of your choices to your online profile.” They can take the app anywhere, but they can’t take you! The customer journey is special and there is potential in every in-store experience to create a lifelong relationship to the company. In a sense, marketers must now be experience makers!

References

Conick, H. (2017). The end of retail (as we knew it). Marketing News, 51(8), 40-47.

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