The way consumers shop is shifting quickly. Finding that perfect shirt or pair of pants can be done from the couch at home rather than spending all afternoon walking from rack to rack, store to store in a mall packed with people. That’s why many physical retailers are facing a difficult decision: change the way their stores operate, or stay the same and continue losing customers to e-commerce giants.
For some brands, that has meant taking huge steps toward reinventing their stores. Apple no longer calls it’s largest retail locations stores. Instead, they call them “town squares”, focusing on a more community-based experience rather than one spent browsing the aisles of a mega-store. Other companies are looking at ways to incorporate the latest technology into the shopping experience, making it more memorable and, in turn, worthwhile for the customer.
Adding AR technology or in-store stylists aren’t viable options for most stores, though. It’s easy to watch big brands make drastic and sometimes questionable changes in hopes to increase their traffic, but smaller stores don’t have the budget to follow suit. There are, however, some simple and quick ways to adjust your business in order to attract customers in the rapidly changing retail environment.
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Boosting your store’s digital presence is a great place to start. Promoting your deals or special events on Facebook to people in your area is a great way to attract potential customers. Over a quarter of the world’s population actively checks Facebook, so accurately targeted ads can be a huge asset in boosting sales in the digital world. Make an offer people can’t refuse and then spread the word virtually.
You can also used Instagram to your advantage by sharing exciting visual content to help encourage engagement around your brand. Larger brands like Target and Fossil do a good job at showcasing their products, while others like Vans and Academy Sports feature images taken by their customers. Like Facebook, you can use Instagram ads to promote your posts to users in your area, spreading the word about your business—and any offers you have—to local shoppers.
Aside from social media, you can train your staff to focus on experience-based interactions with customers. More than ever, shoppers are staying away from stores with pushy salespeople who are clearly looking to just close the deal. While sales teams used to be considered experts in their area, consumers are now able to research and compare products online, making old sales tactics ineffective. Now, more than ever, shoppers are looking for an in-person experience that’s more like a friendly, no pressure conversation rather than a sales pitch.
Letting customers know that you’re knowledgeable about the products without pushing them to buy anything is important. If you’re selling clothing or accessories, mention what colors or styles are popular, or ask if they’ve bought anything recently that they really loved. Showing an interest in the customer’s preferences before suggesting anything helps show that you’re interested in providing them with the best assistance possible.
Shoppers are also becoming more interested in companies that support social and environmental causes. Over 45 percent of millennials say that a brand’s environmental stewardship is more important now than it was two years ago. Encouraging reusable bags or adding some plants to your displays is a great way to make subtle changes that your more eco-conscious customers will appreciate. Shutting down your point of sale system and other electronics when the store is closed is also a great way to reduce energy consumption.
If you want something a little more consumer facing, consider hosting special events where a portion of that day’s proceeds go to a charity of your choice. Consumers love feeling like their purchases are helping to give back, so days like these can be great sales days, so long as you promote them well. Try designating a few days this holiday season where a set amount of all purchases will go to a local food bank or animal shelter. Don’t forget to let people know at least a week before hand!
Ultimately, finding the best adjustments for your business is something that you’ll need to experiment with. Always making tweaks to your store, however, can be the difference between customers trickling in and an influx of new shoppers.