5 ways traditional retail can up the ante to be able to compete with e-commerce.

The rise of e-commerce is opening up a whole new dimension of challenges to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. It is hard to compete with the immediacy, selection and simplicity of online shopping.

This is why the successful future store will be the one that stops trying to compete in the areas that make e-commerce great: they will have to evolve and enhance their competence in other areas, create a different experience for the customer, one that e-commerce cannot provide. 

To compete with e-com traditional retail needs to reinvent itself, become more humane and close to the customer, and this will be made possible thanks to (pause for effect) …technology.

1. Know your audience – Dynamic inventory

Physical stores won´t be ever be able to provide the variety of options e-commerce provides, specially since the tendency for e-com retailers is to go global. Instead of trying to compete with their diversity, they need to provide specialisation.

Cameras with visual recognition will be able to accurately keep track of the footfall and demographics of customers, as well as match them with conversion into sales and missed opportunities.

This will allow retailers to optimize their selection and treat every one of their outlets as unique, which will allow them to anticipate to the customer needs and wants, increasing sales and decreasing unwanted stock.

2. If you build it, they will come – Re engineered spaces

Current shop floors for high street retail are carefully designed to have the customers come in, select the items quickly and leave as soon as possible. More footfall, more turnover of customers, more sales. The design of the floorspace, the in-floor imagery, even the music is selected to drive speed of sales.

The challenge is that e-com makes the purchase process so fast and convenient brick-and-mortar stores don´t even have a chance to compete on this. They need to give the customer a different reason to visit them; and a rather compelling one.

Footfall is going to decrease, this is a fact, but the upside is that then we don´t need them to leave the store so fast: we can focus on make them stay longer to increase the average ticket amount. Bigger spaces in between furniture, more and bigger hi-tech changing rooms, different music and graphics. The store needs to start being something more than just a place where we go buy clothes: it needs to be a comfortable space where they feel welcome and understood.

3. Put on a show – Outstanding customer service

            To motivate customers to keep coming to the stores, brick-and-mortar retailers need to give consumers services they cannot get from their computer or phones.

High street shops need to start looking more like high-end boutiques or bridal stores, they need to make shopping an experience, providing additional face-to-face services such as in-store stylists, personalisation of the garments, catering or small gifts with every purchase, can be ways a shop can become a lifestyle destination.

4. Teamwork makes the dreamwork – Omnichannel

           A seamless integration of the different selling channels is as challenging as necessary for retailers if they want to survive. Brands need to be able to take advantage of the unique benefits the different retail channels offer while still being able to provide a consistent service and brand image to the customer.

           This means the back-end system of the different channels needs to be completely integrated to have real-time visibility of sales and stock, we need to allow the customer to see, shop, return or exchange an item in their online, mobile or physical stores independently. However we can go much further than that.

           Beacons can send alerts to the consumers phones to inform them of personalised offers when nearby a store, once in the store if their size is not available, offer to order online then and there and have it delivered to their home in the shortest amount of time possible.

5. Keep´em coming – Post-sales service

           There is a common mistake in retail: some people consider the job as done once the sale is complete. They are aiming too low. The post-sales service is what turns a one-time sale into a loyal customer.

           Loyalty programs work, and they work for a reason: we all like to be part of a community, and we love to be rewarded. But on top of a customer-friendly loyalty card there is much more advance things that can be done. Cameras with image recognition can connect with screens in the entrance and greet you by name. Personalised e-mails can be sent to each customer a few days after their purchase thanking them and suggesting related items to complete their look with a link to the e-com site where the items have already been marked as favorites with your size.

           Offer pre-sales, exclusive events and personalised services for your best customers. Create areas in your shops dedicated to get the customer to stay longer, small cafés or bakeries, or even whiskey bars. Make the spaces as “instagrammable” as possible to gain visibility and brand awareness.  

Make your customers feel like part of the family and they will become the best PR agents you could get. Give them something they can´t get through a screen : the human touch.

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