While COVID-19 effects paint a very foggy outlook for retailers in 2021, many in-store changes are and will take place to win-back lost foot traffic.
While all agree the pandemic will remain a major obstacle, retailers need to move beyond the crisis and focus on the customer experience. The average consumer is evermore tech savvy and they are taking several paths to purchasing. Retailers need to re-orient to a seamless process to get in-store shopping on the consumers’ must-do list.
Retail needs a much more transaction-based strategy where the physical location can be more than just serve as a fulfillment site. The in-store experience must be a memorable one. More than that, it has to be a commerce experience where there is this obvious transition from what may have been the beginning of their purchase journey online, to this actual buying experience in-store. Let’s call it ‘a combining of shoppers digital and in-store experiences’ AND they must be different!
The Trick: Selling The Sizzle
Retailers need to take advantage of the ‘need’ that the consumer feels online over products and convert that ‘need’ into a ‘want’ when they enter the store.
For example, selling mattresses. The key is not to sell the mattress but to sell ‘life improvement’. Selling the idea of how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. The sales associate is a ‘sleep specialist’ that can explain to customers how to enjoy a better, deeper sleep each night. This goes far beyond selling a mattress and becomes a memorable, educational experience – it’s the experience that stands in-front-of the sale and differentiates your ‘store’ from the online purchase.
You want your store to help make the customers’ decision-making process easier and clearer. You need to provide a welcoming, very customer-friendly ambiance right at the front door. A personal greeting is always nice but not too pushy. Online order pick-ups counter or station clearly marked.
The store may include a coffee/water station and lounge (space permitting) but always have coffee and water available and perhaps a small promo item. A conference area (depending on your product or service). Look the part. It’s all in an effort to help immerse buyers as soon as they walk in the door. Provide a relaxed feeling, it’s a destination, not a quick in-and-out store.
The New Path
The great news is that, despite the massive shift to e-tailing during the lockdowns, in-store retail isn’t going to disappear. There had been a movement before the pandemic for retailers to move away from traditional retail concepts of aisles of shelves stocked with products, to a more open, and more inviting space.
The days of relying on the store as the final destination in the purchase journey are OVER. The consumer now demands, and relies on, and looks forward to, a much more ‘experience’ driven retail model. Gone are the days of the high-pressure sales pitch, the bait-and-switch, and the obnoxious upsell. The average consumer is now, much too informed and much more aware of what they are purchasing. For the in-store retailer it now comes down to providing the ‘why’ of the purchase.