Shopper behaviors are changing, and with each year more and more people are turning to online shopping for just about every need, rather than hitting up a store in person. And is that surprising? Not really. As noted in a Forbes article, to change consumers’ behavior you have to “influence the place where instinctive, automatic decisions are made.” And what has become more automatic, more pervasive, in our lives than the Internet? It’s everywhere and on a certain level it consumes and directs our lives. That in mind, it’s probably not shocking that Millennials—the OG digital natives—make 60 percent of their purchases online, which is up from 47 percent in 2017.
But the change to online-all-the-time shopping isn’t complete for all consumers, and obviously brick-and-mortar stores do still exist. But those existing stores have had to change how they are doing business these days to compete with e-commerce. Retailers, here are three things you have to do if you want to connect with consumers:
1. You have an e-presence
This is a no brainer, right? In this digital world we live in, it stands to reason that a business—any business—would have a website with at the very least the bare bones of information for their customers. But a recent survey suggests that approximately 30 percent of small businesses don’t. The reasons vary, from it not being necessary in their type of business (false—it’s necessary in all types of business, IMO) to lack of time or money to invest in a website.
If you’re a retailer and you don’t have a website, you need to get one (and fast!). And having a Facebook page doesn’t count. You may have noticed over the past year or so that Facebook is frequently in the news for not-great reasons, and anecdotally I’ve noticed more and more people shying away from Facebook for privacy reasons. What’s more, Facebook is “for branding, community-building, and customer engagement,” and if you’re one of the businesses that doesn’t have a website because you don’t have the time to maintain it, then you definitely won’t have the time to handle the demands of Facebook. So if social media is your main point of contact with your consumers, you may want to retool your strategy, and make their connection point directly through you, rather than Mark Zuckerberg.
2. You have to think of ways to make money even when your stores are closed
Few retail stores can stay open 24/7 the way online shops can. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t generate revenue even when your lights are off and doors are locked. If you’re a retailer, you can—if you think outside the box.
Maybe that revenue is generated through your website at 2 in the morning (ahem, see first point about having a website). Or maybe your physical store can double as an after-hours event space. Are you a local or national household name? If not, why not? Get your street team together and get them out into the community. The more people are talking about you (for positive reasons) the more they’re thinking about you, and the more they’re thinking about you, the more likely they’re going to turn to you when they need a product that you sell.
3. You have to curate to differentiate
Dear Brick-and-Mortar retailer: You are not Amazon. Please don’t try to be.
By that I mean just because you can sell fresh asparagus alongside miscellaneous cable cords doesn’t mean you should.
Retailers, know thyself. You don’t need every product under the sun. You need to understand which products your consumers want. And then have those products in your stores.
These curated offerings are what can and will differentiate you from online megasites. That, and the one enormous advantage retailers with a physical space have over online-only shops, which is… physical space.
The key here, though, is that physical space must be an experience, it must be a place that consumers want to visit. My local grocery store, for example, has a bar in it that serves beer and wine. And let me tell you, at 5 p.m. on a Friday, that bar is just as crowded as any other local watering hole. (Because grabbing a drink while grabbing a gallon of milk is one of the best ideas in the universe.) And that’s just one common example. Retailtainment is thriving, and it’s a key way that retailers can differentiate themselves.
And curating doesn’t just apply to your product offerings. You have to curate your customer service and focus on building customer loyalty through face-to-face connections is something that you, brick-and-mortar retailer, can do, while the Amazon website cannot.
The age of 24/7 shopping is here, and retailers are on notice that change is needed. But fear not—for brick-and-mortar retailers, there’s room for everyone, whether you’re open six hours or sixteen hours.