“You need to really understand your customer,” said Helena Foulkes, the President of CVS Pharmacy and Executive Vice President of CVS Health, at NRF Retail’s Big Show. Retailers are fighting against online-only stores by focusing on the consumer. Connecting with consumers is easier for brick and mortars for multiple reasons. Brick and mortar is striking back by developing a better understanding of customers through uniting in-store and digital channels, transforming to exceed customer demands, and emulating authenticity.
In-store shoppers and online shoppers have different wants and needs, but retailers can attract both and understand shoppers better by uniting both channels. Using digital tools to provide a better in-store experience is one example of how brick and mortar retailers are stepping up their game. Booking Bug is a scheduling platform that helps stores provide the opportunity for customers to schedule visits to the store, ensuring a productive and enjoyable visit while the store owner receives whatever information the customer entered. Booking Bug’s CEO, Glenn Shoosmith, stated at Retail’s Big Show, “You don’t have to compromise your margins to get customers in your store.” Rather than promoting sales and spending money on events, allow customers to choose what they want while obtaining more information about the customer than if they had walked in the store. Using tools such as Booking Bug allows retailers to collect tangible data on shoppers’ interests and provide customers personalized recommendations right away.
Basil Rose Boutique, an independent retailer in Newtown, CT, is working on merging their online and offline presence by building an ecommerce site to sell items online. This makes the store more accessible to a wider audience and gives them a better understanding of what customers want based on which products move quickly. Most retailers have an online presence, but in order to truly strike back at online-only businesses, retailers need to make sure their brand is mirrored online and in real life and that they are using both platforms to recognize their shoppers and cater to them.
Brick and mortar retailers are also realizing the importance of transformation to exceed evolving shopper expectations. Beth Comstock, the vice chair of General Electric, also spoke at Retail’s Big Show and stated that “volatility is the new normal.” Change is inevitable and by listening to customers, retailers can make the right adaptations to their business. One big change that the retail industry is charging forward with is integrating brick and mortars with mobile shoppers. Retailers are beginning to attract more mobile-first consumers by allowing shoppers to use their phones for personalized loyalty programs and a point-of-sale for seamless payments. Allowing people to use digital devices to simplify shopping in-store pulls shoppers from their homes and through the doors.
Understanding the customer begins with the retailer. Customers identify authenticity as one of the top qualities that attract them to a brand. No matter the demographics or interests, shoppers want a store that is real. Being 100% genuine will bring like-minded people to a retailer and the advantage of a clear identity. At Retail’s Big Show, Brandless and Capsule shared insight on this topic. They both agreed that “love and positivity are not a campaign…how the team treats each other emanates out.” Building a strong brick and mortar store begins from the core and as that is built, more customers will feel a connection and come pouring in. Everlane, a retailer built on authenticity, responded to customer desires and recently opened their first brick and mortar location. Being honest with customers leads to a stronger bond and prosperity for a retailer. Brick and mortars are coming back with a vengeance because of the trust and openness they have developed with their shoppers.
Brick and mortar retailers have a better understanding of their customer. Being accessible and identical on multiple platforms combined with constant disruption to benefit the customer and authenticity creates a recipe for success. All of these aspects of brick and mortar ultimately help retailers get a grasp of shoppers’ wants and needs and can fulfill them superior to an online-only seller. Multiple leaders in the retail industry and retailers, large and small, support these principles and encourage businesses to better understand their customers. By merging online and offline platforms, adapting to new demands, and being real, it is definite that brick and mortar is striking back.