Fluorescent lighting, no parking and long lineups full of crying children are nuisances that people, begrudgingly, have had to deal with when going shopping. That is, before online shopping. Now, especially when it comes to buying new electronics and household appliances, there are fewer and fewer reasons to get outside the door to make purchases. From the comfort of your sofa you can see products, compare their specs and buy anything you want with the touch of a button.
So, what are retailers to do? Even if you can’t beat the low prices and large product selection online, you can give people good reasons to come outside, stick around and interact.
Here are a few strategies innovative retailers are using to get people in the door.
Create a cozy experience
When purchasing a new piece of electronics, it’s important that customers get to test it out before buying it. Not only does touching a product increase the chance the customer will buy it – trying out new stuff can also be fun, and hence become a great reason in itself to drive down to the store. Remind your customers of that by creating areas in your stores where they can test out the products in comfort. For example, you could have a low-light “living room” space with latest-tech television sets and headphones; arcade areas to test new games on different consoles; mock kitchens where the blenders or ovens can be checked out easily. Want to go the extra mile? Send loyal customers exclusive offers to test out expensive, exciting technology such as virtual reality, or AI robots.
Acknowledge “showrooming” and prevent it
Showrooming, in the form of comparing products on mobile – and even shopping for cheaper goods online! – while browsing in your store, is now a common behavior.
Of course, there’s no way to completely control this kind of consumer behavior – people want to make sure they are getting a good deal, and the ubiquity of mobile enables them to immediately satisfy their curiosity. But there are actions you can take. The more you engage with your customers and offer promotions in-store (including price matching, when possible), the less room there is for them to shift to an online purchase elsewhere.
You can also focus on exclusive perks that come from purchasing from your retail store. For example, you could organize quick courses where customers can learn how to use their new camera or fitness tracker; you could offer (free, or for a fee) delivery and setup of large household appliances such as fridges or washing machines; you could give extended warranty and access to specialized repair services for expensive items.
Be where your customers are
Having your own branded website is not enough. Online, being where your customers are means, among other things, a strong social media presence. Make sure you keep your social pages alive and successful by posting regularly, interacting with users, and encouraging user-generated content. Do not forget to lead your fans and followers back to your store by offering promotions and coupons when customers take action, such as sharing your posts, or taking part in games and events. Whatever your strategy, don’t forget to make it fun – that’s what social media are about!
Online marketplaces have become the first (and sometimes only) stop for many online shoppers. If you can’t fight them, why not join them? Consider whether it would be worth opening a store in one of the leading marketplaces, be it Taobao, eBay, Amazon or JD.com.
Also consider partnering up with other influential brands to create campaigns that broaden engagement and boost sales. Just think of how much the unlikely collaboration between GoPro and Red Bull (which led to Felix Baumgartner’s world record-shattering jump from space, all recorded with a GoPro camera) has done for the visibility (and revenue!) of both brands.
What about offline? The fact that you have a brick-and-mortar store doesn’t have to mean you have to feel tied down to its physical location. Position your storefront in unexpected real-life places to raise brand awareness – for instance, at eco-fairs if you have a great recycling program – and engage with e new customers with contests, vouchers and giveaways designed to lead them back through your store’s doors.
Offer an in-store experience that goes beyond checkout
Meet-the-expert events, classes and in-store activities of interest to your demographic can work wonders when it comes to engagement – at least, so long as the events are advertised strategically using a combination of traditional and digital marketing formats. Simple offers surrounding major releases (think of the latest Star Wars video game or of the newest iPhone), such as discounts or limited-edition gifts for the first 10 people in the store, will get them out of the house in a very real way.
It’s worth noting that connecting experiences with rewards programs can go a long way, especially with younger generations of customers. According to a study by Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, 84 percent of millennials claim they prefer experiential rewards, such as exclusive events, parties and meet-ups. They like to share these rewards online and with friends and family, too!
If you plan to organize special events, make sure you can efficiently manage them, tracking participation and success. A coordinated system that can connect your bookings and registrations to your sales, customer information and loyalty program is of paramount importance when it comes to delivering a consistent, smooth brand experience to customers. The advantages are not only in terms of service: when you use a unified system, management benefits too. With all information stored in one database, you can easily get a snapshot of your whole business, with no time wasted and no complex calculations needed to put together information from different sources.
Even in today’s digital-first world, there are plenty of ways to not only put a face to your brand but also come face-to-face with customers. Create experiences that differentiate you as a brand, and make these experiences as frictionless and personalized as possible.
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