As e-commerce has steadily increased over the past decade, there has been a lot of talk about brick and mortar retail being in trouble. We saw large chain department stores that once dominated like JCPenney, K-Mart, Sears, and many others shut down. Now, with the pandemic still on our hands, brick and mortar stores may be struggling even more. But the pandemic may have just exacerbated some of the issues at hand rather than being the issue itself.
While we never want bad things to happen, sometimes we can see the silver lining through life’s unfortunate circumstances and learn and grow from them.
That can definitely be said as we learn to move forward in 2021 and beyond with brick and mortar retail. Crisis always has a way of causing people to evaluate life (and business) and make changes for the better. Online retail seemed to thrive during the pandemic. Some brick and mortar stores rose to the occasion, but others fell behind.
While online retail is here to stay, that doesn’t mean that brick and mortar is going anywhere. We just need to adapt.
So what does brick and mortar retail have to do to stay relevant today? The answer is to make shopping at their store(s) an experience. A memorable and enjoyable customer experience is one of the keys to success and longevity.
How Do You Improve Your Store Experience?
You should ask yourself: what does your store do differently to make your customers have a memorable experience every time they come to your store? Or maybe the better question is why would a customer come back to your store after their first visit?
There are lots of ways you can change or add new things to enhance your customer experience.
- Improving your merchandising and arranging products in a way that enhances the shopping experience. By rearranging your shelves you could not only make your customer have a better shopping experience but you could also see an increase in sales! By understanding shopping behaviors and closely paying attention to pain points your customers have locating products can give you direction.
- Offering unique products people can’t get at any regular store like kombucha on tap. Have products available that customers could maybe enjoy while they shop, offer samples regularly, and be a source for niche products in your community.
- Dedication to local products and highlighting products in your community. There’s a huge level of support for shopping local right now. Capitalize on this by supporting other local business owners and carrying their products.
- Have unique services. This could be health coaching, saunas, yoga classes, health practitioners, specialized weight loss services, and beyond.
- Remodel of your store to modernize your style and give you a fresh look. More than two-thirds of consumers say they have avoided a place of business based on its external appearance. If you haven’t painted or remodeled in a while both inside and out, that could add a lot to your customer experience.
- Offering cash back rewards on purchases to your customers. Who doesn’t love free money? Whether it’s money on their account, free product after they spend so much, or something free after 10 visits, customers love reward programs! Oftentimes you can keep customers coming back just because they want to use their rewards with you even if you may not have the best price. If you’re close, they would rather spend with you.
- Offering curbside, delivery, and/or online shopping. This one isn’t for everyone but if the pandemic taught retailers anything it’s that we need to be quick to adapt in times of crisis and uncertainty. Even stores that don’t have any plans of having an e-commerce site developed ways to meet their customer’s needs. The demand for curbside, delivery, and online shopping is still very much there, so stores should be considering their long term options.
- It could be all of the above or something completely different. Whatever it is for your store, don’t hesitate. Be creative and implement things to enhance the shopping experience.
No matter how long you’ve been in business or what unique things you offer already, there is always room for improvement. We’d encourage you to survey your customer base to see what they want you to offer. Allow for open feedback and figure out what’s important to them. Take their suggestions to heart. Don’t be afraid of change. It may cost time and money but it will be worth it.
Your Staff Matters
Not only is the way your store laid out and the products you offer important, but your staff can make or break your customer experience. Having helpful, positive, warm, and well-trained staff will encourage your customers to return time and time again. Creating a place where people want to work for the long haul is a key part of this conversation. We encourage you to read our blog on creating a workplace where your employees want to work.
While there are plenty of stores that do this right, we can’t help but point to one of the kings of customer service as an example: Chick-Fil-A. They have earned the top spot for 6 years running when it comes to customer service according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual survey. It may seem like a no brainer, but having polite staff that says, “please,” and “thank you,” and even takes it up a notch with “my pleasure” can go a long way. Training your staff on phone etiquette, reminding them to greet customers with a smile and warm hello, and going the extra mile to help customers that need a hand will speak volumes to your dedication to a top-quality customer experience.
Brick and Mortar Will Always Be Relevant
While creating a memorable experience for your customers is an incredibly important factor, one thing that brick and mortar retail will always have to offer is people. In the natural products industry specifically, the human connection is so important. After all, if you’re about to drop $100 on supplements, you want to know that they will work.. You trust that if you spent 15 minutes talking with a sales associate that they guided you to the best products for your needs. You don’t have that level of care when shopping online.
So while our brick and mortar stores will always have that competitive edge, we must still be a place where people want to visit again and again. If you offer the customer education but you didn’t create a memorable experience, they will likely take their business elsewhere. Create as many reasons as possible for them to spend their money with you.
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