As the internet continues to change how we shop, stores across the U.S. keep on closing. As of April 2019, retailers announced plans to shut 5,994 stores this year, exceeding the total in all of 2018, according to the New York Times.
The simplest explanation for the decline of these retailers is the success of Amazon and the company is clearly doing many things well. The ease of its online “one-click” navigation; vast inventory; competitive pricing; fast, free shipping (for Prime members); and easy returns have driven growth. Not to mention thousands of credible product descriptions and user reviews.
But retail bankruptcies and store closures are not just because of Amazon’s success. Retail is not dying, it’s just changing. Stores that are surviving are those that offer consumers more compelling experiences and better online shopping options.
The good news is that brick-and-mortar retailers have some key advantages over Amazon. By leveraging these differentiators, struggling brands can respond to trends and gain a competitive edge.
Here are nine things retailers can do to compete in 2019 and beyond.
1. Be Digital (and Mobile) Smart
Consumers expect to find you online and to have a good experience whether they’re using their phone or computer. Make sure your site is user-friendly, mobile-responsive and offers robust product descriptions and reviews.
2. Upgrade Your Physical Store
The experience of shopping -- visiting a specific location and seeing a curated selection of items -- is still very appealing for many consumers. But when it doesn’t feel special, people don’t see an incremental benefit from going to the store. Make sure your locations look and feel good and that an in-store visit offers value.
3. Hire Great Sales People
Help from a live human is the main strength of retailers with physical locations. The best sales associates have amazing people skills and the training to curate products for customers. Their superior knowledge allows them to find things they know customers will like and make recommendations. Make sure to invest in your people.
4. Jump the Generation Gap
There is a huge generational divide between the expectations of Baby Boomer, Millennial, and Gen X, Y and Z shoppers. Younger generations are much more mobile and multi-screen, while having high expectations that cross-channel experiences will be consistent and rewarding. Attract and market to these buyers so that you can thrive into future.
5. Get Social
Social media has shifted the balance of power from brands to consumers. Marketing has changed from a one-way megaphone to a conversation. Make sure you have an active presence on social and participate in the platforms your customers use.
6. Encourage Reviews
The power of combining online reviews and social media can not be understated. Retailers need a good quantity of unbiased reviews, not just positive ones. Let your customers assess posts online and make their own judgements. Ask for and incentivize reviews during and after purchase.
7. Be Exclusive
Successful retailers are re-branding their companies to engage with narrow and specific audiences. They offer exclusive products that are not available elsewhere and/or are created for a specific shopper. For example, In-store brands or collaborations with specific designers that are only available at the designer’s shop and the retailer. Figure out how your products can be exclusive.
8. Earn Loyalty
The best loyalty programs offer substantial benefits that are exclusive to program members. They go beyond merely offering discounts or points toward future purchases to satisfy a greater need in members’ lives. These customers enjoy special treatment from sales people and the psychological factor of knowing who’s in and who’s out. Construct your loyalty program carefully.
9. Measure and Optimize Marketing
Future success depends on a healthy ROI for your marketing spend. Retailers must be able to connect online and offline marketing and advertising with results. Use an attribution solution that helps you measure the effectiveness of every marketing dollar spent. Make sure that you don't invest time, resources and budget in marketing and advertising that won’t generate sales down the line.
Download this ebook to learn more about measuring marketing effectiveness: Untangling Attribution’s Web of Confusion: A Primer for Marketers.
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