In the recent few years, many American retail brands have had to close their doors while others dangle on the verge of bankruptcy in a phenomenon dubbed the “retail apocalypse’.
Toys R Us, Sears, Macys and J Crew were once bustling heavyweights of the retail industry but have since tumbled from the glory due to the increasing popularity of e-commerce brands like Amazon and Zappos. According to statistics from the US Department of Commerce, Amazon controls 40% of online commerce.
The downfall of these retail brands has been attributed to their inability to adapt to changing market forces. As more and more retail consumers prefer to shop online, traditional brick and mortar stores will continue to fade into oblivion unless some drastic measure are taken.
A few retailers have continued to see success despite the whirlwind. Target and Costco, for instance, continue to expand their coverage while other storefronts like Apple and Dollar General have witnessed increased foot traffic. What makes the difference? What does a retail business have to do to thrive in the sweeping apocalypse?
Enhance Customer Experience
E-commerce is a booming industry. Rather than walking to a storefront and carrying a whole bunch of bags, customers now prefer to shop in the comfort of their homes. This means that retail outlets are no longer attractive to consumers. Sometime back, shopping was an experience a customer looked forward to.
Over time, it became monotonous to walk around a store looking for every item, throwing it into a shopping cart and queuing at the counter among 20 or so other customers. Along the way, that unique shopping experience faded and online shopping became more attractive.
Retailers have to look for ways to cultivate a new experience among their clientele. Genius brands like Nike and Apple have found innovative ways of keeping their customers coming back. Apple, for instance, has branded itself as a destination rather than a store, say fundera.com.
Customers who come into an Apple store are allowed to test out new gadgets, view products and tinker around with a few things. The experience at an Apple store is far from the traditional “come in and buy”. It is more engaging and thus, attractive to customers. Nike, on the other hand, lets customers exercise in-house.
Being one of the leading sports brands in the market, it makes sense to provide their clients and the opportunity to see Nike products in use. Nike employees recommend products based on the exercise needs of an individual.
These two examples show how enhanced customer experience can help in retaining customers at brick and mortar stores. Retailers should find more innovative ways customized to suit their target demographic in order to maintain that desired client base.
Investing in Customer Relationships
One business has established authority in its niche; it will have a significant customer base. It will then behove the business to maintain these customers as they search for new customers. Modern times have necessitated an urgent need for the incorporation of social media into many a business.
The beauty of social media is that it maintains and fortifies customer relationships while at the same time promoting the business to new customers. It offers a personalized effect that can be tailored to the unique target group of your customers.
A good approach would be to use existing data to identify what drives your customers. Working on these inferences, businesses can create rapport with their existing clients and use the same methods to attract new clients.
Basically, you can enhance your customer service by going to the people. Encourage your clientele to follow your social media handles and make them as interesting as possible. Offer assistance, join social media trends and make some noise. Reward programs are also a good way to foster client relationships.
Technology makes things easier and interesting. Some stores like Target are now experimenting with automatic checkout systems. While others like Lowes are using robots to assist shoppers in locating products in the stores.
People would throng to a store just to see the robots, for instance, or to experience automated check out. The vending machines in Japan have become a tourist attraction which brings in people from all over the world to witness a hot-meal vending machine. With the right use of technology, retailers can preserve their place in the market.