Retailers sometimes believe that physical stores and e-commerce operations are in a battle for supremacy. Everyone reads the statistics and headlines highlighting the growing threat e-commerce poses to the health and longevity of physical stores. The reality is the two channels must co-exist in harmony to offer consumers the seamless shopping experience they now demand. Home improvement retailers can thrive by connecting the branding of traditional retailing with the digital capabilities of e-commerce. Customers want to control when and how they shop. The ball is now in the consumer’s court and will be passed to agile retailers who understand how to play the game.
Although retailers continue to struggle, the fusion of online and physical channels has already happened in the minds of consumers. They learned to adapt quickly to new situations during the past three years and want to shop with retailers who enhance their quality of life and prioritize convenience. Physical stores are critical in the consumer journey because they elevate the brand and facilitate the immersive experience of seeing, touching, and interacting with products.
Pivot to Think Like Consumers
Consumers are no longer predictable, and retailers can’t afford to make assumptions based on their past experiences. Store owners should be prepared to sell and fulfill demand wherever consumers are willing to buy—in-store or online—creating a plan that only focuses on generating sales in a physical store limits possibilities and future growth. It’s critical for retailers to view change management as a continuous process to minimize disruptions and gain buy-in from employees. Retailers should also review the capabilities of their suppliers to ensure they remain innovative and incorporate new technology.
Tap into Technology
Smaller operations often have limited budgets, and investing in new technology can seem out of reach. However, every store has a point-of-sale system with valuable information that can help store owners identify their best customers and provide details of their purchase history. This data plays a critical role in developing personalized marketing that reflects the shopper’s buying habits.
Visibility to out-of-stock. Consumers have little tolerance for empty shelves and sale merchandise that is out-of-stock. Frequently checking inventory levels will alert retailers when merchandise levels are low and it is time to replenish them from the warehouse or another store location. Promoting both online and physical stores lets customers know they have more options and a broader merchandise selection. Stores that are members of a co-op, franchise, or warehouse can create a more robust shopping experience by encouraging shoppers to access the thousands of products stocked in the warehouse and having their purchases shipped to the store.
Facilitating Returns. Modern POS systems can also streamline the return process and keep track of inventory to ensure that it does not fall between the cracks. Stores should have a process in place to account for goods that are purchased in the physical store, and merchandise purchased online since they can either be restocked or returned to the warehouse.
Apps Improve Customer Service
Phone screens can be relatively small, and reviewing merchandise in its optimum presentation can be challenging. Mobile Apps are one-way that retailers make it convenient for busy shoppers to place orders and pick up merchandise. Associates can process the request in real time while the shopper travels to the location. By the time the person arrives, the package is waiting, and the store association is prepared to make recommendations for add-on sales. Consumers have embraced buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and consider it to be an essential service.
- 114 percent increase in revenue when click-and-collect is implemented
- Ship to Store orders generated a 60 percent increase in revenue
QR Codes—The New Silent Salesperson
Manufacturers and Retailers like QR codes because they deliver the brand’s unfiltered message and offer access to product information in-store or online. Customers can often make the selection and complete the purchase without the assistance of a store associate. QR codes complement the digital and in-store experience and connect both channels to benefit consumers.
Every store is different. Owners must decide how to connect traditional physical stores with e-commerce operations to optimize the consumer experience. Understandably, it can be a process filled with trials and errors. However, a commitment to building an omnichannel connection will position your organization for long-term growth.