It is high time that we dispel the notion that brick-and-mortar stores are at a disadvantage relative to online retailers. This may hold true in certain exceptional cases in terms of opening hours. In other respects, brick-and-mortar retailing can be way ahead of the competition, if it so chooses. Take this scenario, for instance:
Just imagine there were no brick-and-mortar stores and people had only ever bought items online. Suddenly, someone invents real shops in which you can smell, taste and feel. Best of all: you can talk to real people if you have questions and find out about products at first hand. Everyone is thrilled and delighted with this new kind of recreational activity and inspiration!
So there are wonderful opportunities when a local shop presents itself well, giving it an outright advantage over online retailing. However, some requirements must also be met. All retailers should be aware of these as they have been part of the industry’s DNA for centuries.
- Think in terms of customer relationships
Essentially, retailing is all about relationship management. But this also means that you cannot indirectly foster the relationship. You will often notice nowadays that if retailers want to survey customers, they hire a market research agency. If they want to retain customers, they turn to providers of loyalty programmes such as Payback. We have basically forgotten how to engage directly with customers in local business. But direct contact is exactly what we will need to focus on more intensively in the future. Do not make your customers your fans. Instead, become a fan of your customers and show them how you feel.
- Be a recreational offering
The value proposition of brick-and-mortar retailing is changing radically at the moment. It is no longer about being a vast warehouse in which your customers help themselves according to their needs. Firstly, others – particularly online shops – can do that faster and more conveniently and also more cheaply in some cases. Secondly, trends such as the sharing economy and minimalism are causing people to move away from consumption. It is becoming increasingly difficult to sell by offering shelves and racks bursting with products. You have to convey contexts to people that are then also tied into retailing. A girls’ night experience? Great! Then offer the whole package in one, with sparkling wine, snack and lingerie selections! Occasion-based consumption will move more and more into the forefront, while people will go elsewhere to simply replenish supplies.
- Be multi-sensory
People have more than just the two senses which e-commerce players can hope to target at most. This is of huge benefit to brick-and-mortar stores. Understand how sensory contexts arise and how smells, sounds and temperature levels affect people.
- People love people A local retailer’s sales staff are increasingly the key to success. But one thing is certain: this does not mean simply employing minimum-wage shelf stackers. Success can only be achieved with well-trained and motivated assistants who know how to energise people to act on the ground. This brings us back to the topic of contexts. If you understand how to make the relevant contexts the focal point, then you can offer multiple perspectives of your product portfolio. If you do not offer these contexts, everything rests on just one criterion: the price. You are then instantly comparable with the whole world.
- Be an experience
We see a very strong shift in people’s values towards celebrating life rather than owning things. Instead of wanting to buy cars, for instance, young people are looking to invest in the latest exercise trends and extreme sports or travel. Anyone wondering how to spend their day on a beautiful summer morning can decide whether they would prefer to go for a cycle or swim or hit the shops. If a brick-and-mortar store can succeed in offering the same recreational value as sport, for example, with additional inspirations, it will be the frontrunner. But a change of attitude is essential for this: the basic philosophy switches from “sales per square metre” to “experience per square metre”.
There are already lots of current examples of retailers who are proving excellent at this. If you can get people excited about your store using the simple methods described above, you will be rewarded over the long term.
Hardly a week goes by without a trade journal reporting on big investments in these aspects. From food discounters and fashion sellers to the construction industry, a major shift in just such a direction can be seen.
Best practice – the book store experience
After many retailers were forced to close their doors due to a shift in sales, a powerful rethink changed the industry. It had enjoyed fortress-like protection for decades through fixed book pricing, which meant it never developed the antibodies for an alternative strategy. After years of looking for a solution, booksellers are now creating environments for people who want to spend time in a lounge atmosphere and, quite incidentally, buy books as well, oddly enough.
A phrase that has been a fact of life for retailers for centuries has never meant so much as it does now: you snooze, you lose. All the more reason to address your value proposition. Exciting times!
Do you need more clear practical tips from Frank Rehme? Listen to his presentation on 1 February 2017 (1:00 pm) at the Toy Business Forum at the Spielwarenmesse® 2017. Also find out about other presentations on toy trade, licenses, product range policies and sales training in the Toy Business Forum program.