While many headlines point to a decline in brick-and-mortar sales in the age of e-commerce, the reality is many physical retailers — particularly those that have been able to re-invent themselves to accommodate changing customer expectations — are thriving.
To understand this re-invention in retail, we invited consumer brands, retailers, merchandisers and experiential marketing experts to share ideas about the latest trends and opportunities within the brick-and-mortar realm. At the event, titled INSIGHT 2018, retail, industry and field execution experts met to connect, innovate and explore new strategies critical to success in today’s merging retail and digital marketplace.
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Below are the seven key takeaways from the event that will enable retailers to remain competitive in 2018 and beyond.
1. Retail is undergoing a huge transformation.
Contrary to popular belief, shoppers are not abandoning brick-and-mortar to shop online exclusively. Although consumers relish the convenience and vast inventory available through online shopping, they still crave the tactile experience of the retail store. Because of this, many brands that began online are now opening physical stores, bringing the online and in-store shopping experiences together.
2. Consumers want memorable retail experiences.
A great in-store experience is necessary to draw loyal customers who are likely to become repeat buyers, spread positive reviews and be forgiving should something go wrong. However, uninspired gimmicks aren’t enough to convert a potential buyer. Retailers and brands should instead strive to create a thoughtful, unique customer journey that makes the shopping experience more enjoyable.
3. Authenticity drives loyal customers.
Creating true brand authenticity and having a mission statement is essential to driving loyal consumers. To meet this lofty goal, retailers are delivering omnichannel experiences that transmit authenticity and delight customers at each touch-point. In-store brand experiences should be consistent with online experiences, promoting a successful omnichannel strategy. If your business is saying one thing and doing another, you’ll take a hit on authenticity — and sales.
4. Millennials want to see brands and retailers take a stand on societal issues.
In addition to creating brand authenticity, millennials are demanding that brands and retailers take a stand on societal issues. While statements don’t need to be politically charged, they should be defined and reflected in the product, in-store experience, work environment and press coverage. From an in-store angle, authenticity could be reflected in only displaying products that align with those same values. “BPA-free” or “Made in the USA” product displays are all concrete examples of standing by and communicating company values.
5. Discount retail techniques are changing.
Some tried-and-true tricks like bright signage, limited-time offers and strategic product placement still work to attract discount shoppers. That said, even deep-discount and low-price retail is undergoing transformations. For instance, low-price retailers are beginning to associate themselves with name brands by carrying recognizable labels to attract shoppers to their stores. There is also a rise in private-label offerings, which is not only a play to win on price, but a bona fide effort to build a beloved consumer brand and loyalty.
6. Technology-driven compliance is growing.
A lack of compliance and poor retail execution are responsible for millions of dollars in lost sales for retailers every year. Visual data is promoting retail compliance and streamlining retail operations such as helping to reduce time-consuming administrative tasks, human error and fraud. By maintaining retail compliance, brands and retailers can ensure happy employees and happy customers.
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7. Retail execution software is critical.
In a competitive retail environment, improving staff and store performance is a priority. Brands and retailers are using retail execution software to verify proper task completion and accurate brand representation. Companies that deliver stellar retail experiences are using technology to better instruct staff and collect employee feedback.
Today’s consumers exist in a world that moves at an unparalleled pace. Retailers need to embrace change to remain competitive and employ initiatives that create an agile store that keeps up with consumer needs. Follow these trends to deliver the specialized and improved customer experience that today’s shoppers expect.
Stefan Midford, president/CEO of Natural Insight, a provider of a Cloud-based advanced retail execution and workforce management platform for consumer brands, retailers and merchandising and marketing agencies.