Social distancing isn’t where the war against physical retail started. In fact, physical retail was under siege long before the pandemic redefined consumer expectations. The rise of e-Commerce has been pushing against physical retail for more than a decade, and COVID-19 simply brought that battle to the forefront.
Consider this: US consumers are expected to spend approximately $933.30 billion online in 2021. That’s an increase of 17.9 percent year over year, and it represents 15.3 percent of total retail sales. Compare that to 2011, when e-Commerce made up just seven percent of total retail sales.
In the current environment, brand differentiation depends on a digitally enhanced in-store experience, and optimized, digitally enabled retail operations are a prerequisite for memorable customer experiences. What does that look like in real-world applications?
The Foundation of a Successful Brick-and-Mortar Strategy: Retail Operations
A successful brick-and-mortar strategy begins with four basic components that work together to ensure an exceptional customer experience. The first is freeing up retail associates to focus on personalized customer care.
As consumers increasingly turn to hybrid shopping methods like BOPIS (buy online and pick up in-store), there are limited opportunities to make personal connections. The most successful retailers are optimizing each of those interactions to strengthen customer relationships.
Rather than putting retail associates to work at non-value-add tasks like updating paper price cards and other signage, successful brick-and-mortar retailers are automating these basic, repetitive chores. Advanced digital tools make it possible to manage tasks like setting promotions and making price changes centrally, giving retail associates the opportunity to focus on building and cultivating strong customer relationships.
Empowered Shoppers = Improved Customer Journey
The second component of a successful brick-and-mortar retail strategy is empowering shoppers, which results in an improved customer journey. That means creating simple solutions for common challenges like checking prices, determining product availability and reviewing product specifications.
Rather than putting shoppers in the position of tracking down retail associates to ask basic questions, successful retailers are leveraging technology to empower their customers. For example, some offer interactive in-store demos that enable shoppers to discover products and learn more about their features before engaging with retail associates. Interactive in-store demos remove barriers in the path to purchase, which is key to optimization of the customer experience.
Real-Time Insights Available Through Advanced Customer Journey Analytics
No brick-and-mortar retail strategy can succeed without thoughtful use of customer journey analytics, and today’s platforms go far beyond traditional customer data. New, behavior-based retail analytics tools offer business leaders the ability to understand and optimize the customer journey at the most fundamental level to determine what works–and what misses the mark.
Which areas of the store get more traffic? Which promotions encourage shoppers to pick up the product? What time of day is most popular with consumers, and how much time are they spending in the store?
These types of insights allow retailers to tease out winning combinations of promotions strategies, store layouts, and more through data analysis. The most successful combinations can then be duplicated across the retail footprint. Better still, with the right digital tools, changes can be made in a matter of minutes rather than days, rapidly improving the customer experience enterprise-wide.
Creating Consistent Omnichannel Retail Experiences
The fourth and perhaps most important component of a successful brick-and-mortar retail strategy is a consistent omnichannel retail experience. Nothing frustrates shoppers more than finding their online experience doesn’t reflect the realities of an in-store visit. Whether it is pricing differences, an inability to obtain desired promotions, or a long wait time to speak with a retail associate, shoppers are quick to abandon brick-and-mortar retailers that fail in this area.
Effective back-end operations are key to consistency and coordination between in-store and e-Commerce customer experiences. Advanced retail operations software can ensure customers experience a seamless transition from e-Commerce to in-store and back again.
Optimize Retail Operations with ViewSpot® Studio
Smith Micro’s ViewSpot platform empowers wireless carriers and other smartphone retailers to enrich brick and mortar shopping experiences with digital components such as synchronized promotions on in-store demo devices, self-service browsing powered by touchless technology, and dynamic digital price cards that are always up-to-date. ViewSpot’s backend operations engine, ViewSpot Studio, delivers powerful functionality that simplifies the behind-the-scenes retail processes for wireless carriers and other smartphone retailers.
With ViewSpot Studio, wireless carriers can:
- Easily create demo device experiences with interactive components such as QR codes and touch-free triggers such as face detection.
- Manage & schedule in-store promo experiences/pricing changes from centralized location.
- Update in-store pricing in real time.
- Streamline price compliance with bulk management.
- Reduce workload of retail associates with pre-defined device profiles.
- Test/preview new promo experiences on various device form factors before deployment.