July 28, 2016
7 important trends in brick-and-mortar retail
By Annie Mueller
You can drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with trends, and that's not good for you or for your business. It's not wise to chase every buzzword or "next big thing" that comes along, but it is wise to keep an eye on the major trends in brick-and-mortar retail as they develop. Here are 7 we think you should know about.
1. Online sales are a major sales channel for all retailers.
2016 saw a tipping point in online sales: for the first time, the majority of retail sales were made online rather than in-store. A survey done by the United Parcel Service, Inc., showed that 51% of purchases came from online sales.
Okay, this isn't surprising, and it isn't a new trend: online sales have been growing steadily for years, and that growth trend is probably going to keep rising. What is a current trend, and a great one for brick-and-mortar, is that all retailers can get in on these online sales. As we mentioned in our post about changes in brick-and-mortar, there is no more online vs. offline, or physical retailer vs. ecommerce retailer. All successful retailers are offering their consumers multiple ways to shop and purchase, so as retail sales grow, they should be adding to your brick-and-mortar business revenue.
2. Mobile shopping is everywhere, for everyone.
Brick-and-mortar retail brands don't have to be left out of the mobile action. However, throwing together a brand app that doesn't offer consumers much in terms of real advantage isn't going to win their attention on mobile. Investing in your mobile web presence is the essential first step. Once you've done that, invest in a brand app that gives customers real value so they'll actually use it; otherwise it will just be one more app in a sea of apps, and you won't see much ROI.
3. Millennials turn out to be really great customers...
… once you get their attention.
They like to research brands online; to them, this isn't a distinct activity from in-store shopping. It's just the first step in building a relationship with a brand. They care about what companies stand for. And yes, they are very aware of their options and the fact that they can compare prices, service, and quality. They're not going to be loyal just because they know your brand; but the great news is that if you win their attention and make those key connections, they'll be among your most loyal customers.
So give them online product information, easy and cheap return options, and a solid mobile web presence. They love a good loyalty program. Be social, and come up with an app that is smooth, helpful, and fun to use.
4. Brick-and-mortar retail owns impulse purchases.
Impulse buys happen far more frequently in-store than they do online. Two components contribute to the vast power that brick-and-mortar holds over these inpulse purchases: one is the allure of the tangible, and the other is the endless availability of online shopping. That's right - one of the main reasons that online shopping has grown, its endless, ever-present, shop-in-your-pajamas availability - is also one of the reasons that impulse buys just don't register as much in ecommerce.
In a store, you're there, shopping, and then you're going to leave. You see the item, and you know that you can have it, in hand, right now: the instant gratification of holding and owning that tangible item will be yours. You also know that if you don't buy it now, and then you leave the store, the moment will be over. You can't get that instant gratification.
Online shopping, on the other hand, can't give you the instantly tangible gratification. You buy it online, now, and... well, it will be at your door soon, but not in your hand now. And if you don't buy it now? Well, you can buy it... whenever. Because the online purchasing option is always there, in your hand; that endless availability removes the sense of urgency from the purchase.
5. Options, options, options: consumers want options.
They want multiple payment options. They'd like to be able to order online, or shop in-store, or any combination of multichannel options. They'd like to be able to order and then have delivery options: pick it up, have it delivered now, hold it for me. Shipping options. Return options. Customer service options: don't you dare just provide a phone number; give them email, contact forms, social media channels, live chat, and truly helpful people.
Consumers want more options and retailers are providing them. It's a big investment for brick-and-mortar retail, but the end results can pay off in well-cemented customer loyalty and more consumer dollars.
6. Retailers are learning to use all that data.
By investing more in digital tools and services, brick-and-mortar retailers can bring all their data together, pull key insights out of it, and (get this) actually use it to create better customer experience, better customer service, and better products.
Data's not a new trend, but learning how to use it, quickly and affordably, has been a problem for retailers. Some have figured out how, by putting in millions of dollars. Many have not: they're stuck in the "collect and analyze" stage of big data, with no real way to use what they discover.
But that's changing: new, innovative tech solutions (we like to think we're one of those) are creating new methods of data use. And smart, effective data use is what retailers need, because what consumers like is personalization, and that's all about the data.
7. Personalization wins customer attention.
Today's consumers love the personalized experiences they get online, on mobile, and via social. They want the same kind of customized attention in physical stores, too, and they're willing to pay more to get it.
There's a key, here, though, for personalization success in brick-and-mortar retail: let consumers control the data they share, and how they share it, and be transparent about what you're going to do with it. They're willing to trade data for personalized service, but they don't want you doing it behind their backs, and they want to control what you know.