It is no surprise that the worlds of consumerism and technology have collided. You can see it in the hands of the youth shopping in stores, on QR codes in store shop windows, and you can even see it from your living room couch while you’re wearing your pajamas. The rise of mobility and e-commerce is apparent everywhere you look. The connectivity of the consumer has changed the way they operate on a daily basis. There is a very obvious shift from brick and mortar shopping to e-commerce and mobility. In 2011, brick and mortar store sales rose at only 3%, while online sales grew at 15%. At this point, it is obvious that there is a long-term trend in online sales making it crucial for retailers to adjust their strategy. Large retailers falling short of mobility and e-commerce strategies are soon after failing in business. Surely this isn’t the death of brick and mortar stores, but retailers need to adjust their in-store tactics in order to compete in the brick and mortar aspect of retail.
One way for retailers without on-line strategies could adapt is to adjust their brick and mortar experience. In fact, even retailers with an online strategy need to adjust their traditional in-store experience. If a customer can easily jump on a computer or mobile device to buy a product, there must be something in the store that differentiates the customer experience. This can be anything from exceptional customer to a non-traditional atmosphere. Apple, for instance, is once again re-inventing its already innovative approach to retail. The new store that opened in Grand Central Station gives a new meaning to the concept of “retail without boundaries.” The store literally has no walls. It is located down a staircase and is portrayed as a type of museum or art gallery. It is a complete hands-on experience, with no product on shelves. Customers can even buy accessories with EasyPay through apps on mobile devices. The store offers exceptional customer service, with associates that act as trusted advisors the whole step of the way. Additionally, customers have the opportunity to sign up for classes, which keeps customers educated. Because of this approach, Apple finished 2011 with an astonishing operating profit margin of 22.1%. Other retailers seem to be following Apple’s lead hoping for similar results. The new Google retail stores will be set up with a similar layout and the ability to try out products while interacting with onsite experts. Other retailers, such as Williams Sonoma, offer classes to their customers in their stores.
So what do retailers need to completely re-define their brick and mortar experience? I’ll give you a hint – Apple has it all. According to ERP analyst Michael Koploy, there are three things that retailers need to do to keep their customers in their stores:
1) Interact, Entertain and Educate – The store is no longer for shopping. Customers come to stores for an experience and they need to be kept engaged.
2) Rethink the Store Inventory and Layout – Because online shopping is so quick and easy, brick and mortar stores need to adapt. Customers must be able to locate their products easily in order to compete with mobile or e-commerce.
3) Replace the Sales Associate with the Likable Expert – This is one of the most beneficial qualities of in-store shopping. Customers in retail stores want to have their questions answered by someone who is knowledgeable and trusted by the shopper.
As proven by Apple, retail stores with these strategies built into their business are the ones that will flourish in a changing market. Retail stores need to adopt similar approaches or they will fail. As technology continues to advance, and shoppers continue to become more mobile, retailers will continuously have to adapt in order the meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer. Just as retailers are attempting to offer the best possible mobile and web customer experiences possible for their customers, they need to do the same within their stores. The retail industry revolves around the customer, and shoppers like to know that. Wherever the consumer is, the retailer should be waiting with bells on – whether it’s on a phone, a computer, or face-to-face.