The retail landscape in the United Kingdom is currently looking rather bleak with huge chains such as Debenhams and House of Fraser forced to close stores and giants like Toys R Us and BHS going into Administration. It’s estimated over 6,500 shops are to close this year alone, with fashion retailers, shoe shops, travel agents and estate agents being those affected most.
But why all the closures and baron streets in remote towns and smaller cities? There are 3 main areas which industry experts believe to have had the biggest effect on retail. The largest influence has come from eCommerce and internet shopping constantly increasing, driving down the need to travel in order to purchase certain items. Some believe Brexit is having a large toll on sales whilst driving the price of imported goods up with the pound decreasing in value and relations with foreign businesses are in a decline. Others believe retailers just aren’t doing enough to keep up with modern technology and aren’t embracing new technologies for both business management and customer satisfaction.
Customers demand much more from a brick and mortar store now because that is how technology has progressed. Not every retail business needs to have the functionality of the giants in the industry but a cloud-based retail enterprise solution can help with that big infrastructure feeling, helping to improve efficiency and manage key areas’ such as stock management, accounts and customer data.
Creating an omnichannel platform gives diversity to the way in which customers can interact. They can browse online what they would like to purchase and reserve instore to view or at least phone to check with the store whether they have it or not. Advanced stock management can help identify the location of an item a customer may wish to see. Should an item, variant or size not be stocked in store, the location of the item could easily be tracked and arranged for delivery to the customers home or back to the store for them to pick up. It allows the retailer store to give a transparent overview of what they have and to accommodate to the customer’s needs.
With a cloud-based enterprise system, you can manage most of your business from your shop, home or on the go allowing you to be flexible to your business and customers needs.
Breaking Engagement Barriers
Succeeding in retail takes much more than having a presentable shop in an easy to reach location. Building an audience and engaging is a key driving force for sales and what’s important is retail still holds an 80-20 split on overall sales vs online sales. Because of this, we can assume 4/5 transactions take place in store but potential customers now spend much more time online in comparison to looking around shops.
Bridging the gap between the real and digital world can be a great way to engage with potential customers and there are plenty of nifty ways to do so. Smiirl is a company who aim to do this by encouraging customers who are physically in your shop to engage with your social media by showing a real-time counter. This can be Facebook likes, Instagram followers or custom counters for anything you can integrate with. This is a fantastic way to encourage potential customers and visitors to become part of your social following, allowing for greater engagement with social campaigns and whilst they’re in your store.
Another fantastic example of this is L’Oréal who offer augmented reality hairstyles and colours before someone would visit a hair stylist. This gives potential customers the ability to see how they would look with a multitude of different hairstyles and can then direct them to their nearest L’Oréal Professionnel salon or to products that help maintain their new hairstyle. Obviously, this is only one example, augmented reality can also be used for trying on new clothes, changing your carpet or wallpaper and much more. Augmented reality is still fastly developing and still in its infancy but some experts are predicting this could become a common feature for shoppers as early as 2020 and is already being used for large-scale marketing campaigns.
Future-Proof Your Business
Technology is highly important to running a successful retail chain, ensuring your business systems don’t get left behind can be pivotal to winning the retail race. A cloud platform allows you to adapt quickly to new situations such as a new store opening, new employees and even new sales channels. The cloud allows business owners to expand exponentially when required which is key to ensuring you can accommodate to new demand or situations.
If managing key business processes through manual input spreadsheets or systems which require time to deploy new processes or expansions, you can quickly find yourself being left behind. Along with ease of expansion, access to real-time data is just as important and can allow your business to capitalise on opportunities such as stock/product expansion or to better associate customer interactions with marketing campaigns.
One of the most important things for retailers nowadays is a great customer experience/service. A unified system which can keep data on a customer will help with finding information on previous orders, so, clothing sizes, product preferences and any information which may assist a sales advisor with the customer. Should the customer purchase instore, it can be recorded against their account and allow for greater upsell opportunities across different channels, emails which can recommend matching items to ones they’ve bought in store and really tailors their relationship with your brand.
Retail Isn’t Dying, It’s Evolving
Window shopping is no longer what it used to be, having a nice display in a shop window will still increase foot traffic but reaching and engaging with audiences digitally is where most customer journies start. Be that social media, through eCommerce or paid advertising, getting your brand or products in front of potential customers before they’ve left the house is becoming more and more pivotal.
More than one billion people are actively using Facebook and a growing trend has been the use of video content. Creating something relevant to your brand or product not only raises awareness whilst potential customers are browsing Facebook, but it can also be targetted to your demographic and when done right, can have great sharability.
Ditching the brick and mortar mindset and focusing on how best to engage with your audience and how to make their shopping experience both quick and unique will help retail to excel for years to come!
Do you own a retail chain or have you had some fantastically unique retail experiences? Please feel free to leave your thoughts down below.