With the continuous growth of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores must adapt to survive. The retail landscape has already been moving toward online spaces, but with the arrival of the pandemic, the push for online retail was huge and universal. People saw physical stores worldwide struggle, with some closing their doors permanently.
The good news is that brick-and-mortar businesses can adapt to the changing times with the right strategies. Here are some strategies traditional businesses can adopt to flourish in the new retail landscape:
Understand Consumer Concerns
While e-commerce is on an unstoppable rise, brick-and-mortar stores still have some edge over online ones. Many consumers prefer in-store purchasing for several reasons, including interaction with products and avoiding delivery fees.
Traditional stores must note what consumers find favorable and unfavorable about online shopping and leverage those factors to improve their businesses. Here are some ways stores can address customers’ concerns.
People consider their experiences as customers important when making purchase decisions. Physical stores do have some advantages in this aspect. At a brick-and-mortar store, customers can physically interact with the product they’re buying. Moreover, you can provide them with better customer service by giving them high-quality assistance in real-time.
Customers value that kind of experience. Research shows that 91% of consumers will likely make another purchase from a business if they receive excellent service. If people enjoy shopping with you, they will return and give you their business again.
Some consumers remain frustrated at some aspects of online shopping. People worry about whether they will receive what they had in mind within a reasonable time frame. Some products look good in pictures but are flimsy and low-quality in real life. Customers also worry about whether the items are packed well and won’t break during transit.
For traditional stores, keeping items in stock, clean and protected can put customers at ease. They know they’ll find the items they’re looking for. They can examine items for quality and bring them home on the same day.
Online stores don’t always have a wide range of payment options. Most websites will take credit or debit cards but might not accept other forms of payment. Physical stores can gain an edge by offering various options. They can accept cash, check, debit, credit and other methods like Apple Pay. Consumers want smooth transactions. Businesses can make transactions more convenient when they make payments easier.
People are increasingly concerned about living sustainably. Many find ways to make better, eco-conscious decisions in all areas of their lives. Thus, some customers are wary of the environmental impact of online shopping. Some worry about the amount of packaging materials needed for shipping, while others worry about the carbon footprint of delivery vehicles.
Physical store owners can make more sustainable and ethical decisions regarding their supply chain and operations. People can feel more at ease shopping at a business whose values align with theirs. Companies can also implement sustainable in-store practices so buyers can see tangible actions. For example, a store can implement a plastic-free policy, which many customers will appreciate.
Incorporate New Technology
Businesses must ride the wave of innovation to thrive in an ever-changing retail sphere. Some companies have adopted new technologies like augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve in-store experiences for their customers.
Stores use AR to provide both entertainment and assistance to customers. For instance, Nike collaborated with BRDG Studios and 8th Wall to create AR experiences in select stores. Customers can scan AR stickers around the store and play mini-games to win certain prizes.
Businesses can use AI for several purposes. AI can help assist customers, track inventory and detect fraudulent activity. Stores can also analyze customer behavior in-store. Amazon Go stores use cameras, computer vision and machine learning to operate their “just walk out” system. New technologies enable businesses to operate more efficiently and provide richer customer experiences.
Solidify Your Online Presence
A recent survey states that 76% of consumers have purchased a product after seeing it from a social media post. Social media has become an indispensable marketing tool, helping businesses increase their reach and attract new customers. Brick-and-mortar stores must curate a social media presence by creating valuable content.
Besides social media, here are some things a physical store can focus on to help strengthen its online presence:
- Search engine visibility: Optimizing for Google can help attract local customers looking for certain products in their vicinity.
- Content marketing: Providing useful content on your website can increase brand recognition and trust.
- Accessible website: Businesses’ websites must be responsive and accessible. They must be optimized for all devices so that anyone can access them.
- Consistent engagement: Businesses must constantly engage with their customers. They must reply punctually to queries and always be available for customer concerns.
Over the last decade, many businesses have moved almost everything online, with remote work becoming undeniably prominent in the past few years. As of 2023, it’s reported that 65% of full-time employees now prefer to work from home full-time. As for retail, people continue to shop online, with the e-commerce sector growing daily. This year alone, the total e-commerce sales in the US for the second quarter is 6.6% higher than the previous quarter.
The world will most likely not return to pre-pandemic practices, at least not entirely. What businesses can do is adapt to the new reality and implement an omnichannel retail model. Omnichannel retail, sometimes called “click and mortar retail,” is a strategy that engages customers both in physical and online spaces.
Stores must understand that people live their lives both physically and digitally. Customers want a seamless experience that integrates brick-and-mortar, app and online channels. An example would be a customer buying online and then coming to the physical store to pick up their item. Another example would be an app that keeps track of loyalty points, which customers can use for both online and in-store purchases.
By adapting to the demands of consumers and taking advantage of physical and digital retailing, brick-and-mortar stores can go beyond surviving — they can thrive. Through strategic adaptation, traditional businesses can avoid fading away with the times. Instead, they can solidify their position in the retail ecosystem.
Jack Shaw, editor of Modded and author of numerous articles on business success and self-improvement, seeks to inspire readers with his practical tips and strategies for growth. His writings can be found on HellaWealth, USCCG and more.