My son was raised using the Internet and whenever we talk about buying a new product, he's already on the corresponding website and has a wealth of information before I even find my car keys. In 2010, Forrester Research stated that retail online sales had grown 11 percent and expected increases of 10 percent a year through 2014. By 2014, consumer purchases using e-retail is expected to exceed $249 billion.
Blame it all on a stressed economy and an increase in Internet shopping, many commercial strip malls are begging for retail clients and are taking a financial beating. What we need, therefore is to return to basics and plan innovative methods to win back some of the sales from the Internet. Primarily the best defenses against customers sitting in front of their computers and buying products is to compete in price, selection, and customer service. While I agree a brick and mortar store can not always compete in the wide selection of products available on the Internet, shoppers still trust local brands and knowing the people who own the businesses.
Even though shoppers like to take advantage of the latest technology, nothing replaces human contact and those sensory experiences of actually going shopping. Customers like to touch, feel, and taste; it's all part of the retail experience. Brick and mortar stores need to only take advantage of the human need and integrate expert, seamless customer service experiences to build loyalty. Offer those tactile experiences that can't be matched on the Internet, and develop relationships with customers by follow-up and offering good prices, good value and outstanding service.
Educate your sales force and enable all employees to be so efficient and comfortable with their knowledge of the product or service they are selling to help educate buyers. After all 70 percent of United States consumers research online before they ever go to a store. Consumers know prices, know products, and know good service. Deliver good service in person, and show that customer how much better it is to deal with you in person, and build your client and customer list with referrals and beaming testimonials.
Never forget that the Internet is also your friend. Develop a website; that's where the shopping begins. Use media to your advantage such as online discounts, photos of the latest merchandise, newsletters offering knowledge and interesting community events, or even send text messages announcing new merchandise. Just this morning I received a picture and text message from my favorite shoe store with the latest designer shoes the store knows I love. That's the reason I stay loyal to a particular shop; they provide the most outstanding customer service anyone could imagine while keeping it all low-key, professional, and not excessive.
In today's market, a brick and mortar establishment needs to do it all!
photo credit: sancho_panza