Although we all remember the mom-and-pop shops we used before Amazon, retail is becoming an increasingly Web-based industry dominated by a mix of big companies and savvy, online-only startups. But merging old-school brick and mortar with emerging mobile and Web technologies has the potential to take the retail industry to a whole new level.
To find out what strategies work best, we asked a group of entrepreneurs from YEC the following:
What’s one strategy retail companies can use to stay relevant on and offline?
These were their tips:
1. VIP Clubs
We work with a number of clients in the retail space and have helped them to set up “VIP” clubs for prospects and customers. These accomplish a few things – gaining contact info to inform them of special promotions and building loyalty and a sense of being an “insider” for non-public deals. We’ve seen enormous revenue generated from these programs!
– Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes
2. Brand Consistency
Among many challenges, one that on/offline retailers face is that they manage the sales channels completely separately. In that case, they run the risk that a customer’s brand experience is completely different based on channel.
What should vary is in how the retailer approaches the consumer based on device or lack thereof. Understand why the consumer is using that channel and adapt. In store, it is either a more consultative or immediacy-oriented approach compared to online where it could either be educational or efficient. Then, with mobile, the experience is largely location oriented.
– Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
3. Keeping it Fresh
Always be changing is our motto when it comes to staying relevant. Frequently and dramatically change your website banners or the display windows at your brick and mortar! Keep it fresh!
4. Omni-Channel Retailing
Omni-Channel retailing exists, but it’s not widespread — yet!
This brick-meet-click type of retailing gives consumers a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels, ultimately allowing shoppers to interact with brands on and offline simultaneously.
– Katie Finnegan, Hukkster
5. iPad Integrations
Retail companies are constantly looking for ways to bridge online and offline shopping experiences. One way to successfully do this is to have iPad integrations in store that enhance the shopping experience.
Nordstrom and Sephora have both been effectively investing in iPad integrations. For example, at Sephora, consumers can use the SkinID app to discover color cosmetics that match certain skintones. Bringing online experiences in store can help empower consumers in the offline world.
– Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
6. Focusing on Customer Experience
Maniacally focus on the customer experience. Retail companies are competing against pure online competitors, which have the luxury of a lot of data to change their user experience rapidly for incremental sales.
Brick-n-mortar shops often do not have or are squandering that data. Instead they need to create a customer experience that makes someone remember the place. They need to create pleasant memories so it’s always at the top of the customer’s mind. By manically focusing on this, they will retain a large portion of what makes customers come back for more.
– Tracey Wiedmeyer, InContext Solutions
7. Empathizing With Customers
The retail landscape is increasingly competitive and fragmented because there are so many new ways for small companies to enter the market. The number one strategy to make you stand out is to empathize with your customers.
This means understanding what their pain points are, how your product or service can solve them and going the extra mile to make their overall experience outstanding. Long term, customer empathy will also act as a trend forecaster since you will understand what consumers are responding to and why.
– Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting
8. Positive Reviews
A word-of-mouth marketing strategy that can bridge the offline and online experience can be highly effective. For instance, it’s important to grab online customer feedback while you have them in the store.
Use the face-to-face opportunity to ask them to leave a review online, especially if you feel that their experience is generally positive. This offline engagement will make it more likely that they will actually do it and those online reviews will come in highly effective for driving visits from more potential customers.
– Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee
9. Gift Cards
Companies can use the revenue generated from the gift card sale as debt-free working capital on their balance sheet to acquire inventory. By selling value in the form of a gift card, companies can continue to use those funds while guaranteeing a sale.
Additionally, the market for electronic gift cards has grown 30 percent year over year. Distribution both on and offline allows a brand to get their name out there.
– George Bousis, Raise Marketplace Inc.
10. Integration of Augmented Reality
The integration of value-added mobile content (like demonstration videos, contests and virtual “try ons”) delivered at point-of-sale and out-of-store communications is an exciting new frontier for retailers. Those doing it right (like IKEA in last year’s product calendar) are making a huge splash. Augmented Reality is an amazing way to bring products to life.
– Brittany Hodak, ZinePak
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.